Why Should I Visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna?

The Historical Art Museum in Vienna, better known as Kunsthistorisches Museum is the greatest museum in central Europe. Housed in its festive palatial building on Ringstraße, it is crowned with an octagonal dome. The term Kunsthistorisches Museum applies to both the institution and the main building. It was opened around 1891 by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary.

With the opportunity of the new collection wing that has opened yesterday, I thought to make you a mini guide with the cool stuff you can see there.

So let’s start with some of the collections that are hosted there:

The Kunstkammer  Wien (from 1st March 2013)

The Kunstkammer Wien is unique in the world. Its objects are of extraordinary quality, given the fact they were commissioned or purchased by the emperor or members of the imperial family.

Among the highlights in the Kunstkammer Wien are outstanding works of the goldsmith’s art, such as the famous Saliera by Benvenuto Cellini, first-rate specimens of sculpture, such as the Krumau Madonna, masterly bronze statuettes, filigree and bizarre ivory objects and virtuoso stone vessels as well as precious clocks, complicated automatons, remarkable scientific instruments, precious games and much more. See selected masterpieces of the collection.

The Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection

The Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection is one of the most important collections of Egyptian antiquities. It contains more than 12,000 objects date from a period of almost four thousand years, from the Egyptian Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods (ca. 3500 BC) to the early Christian era. Geographically their origins range from Egypt, Nubia, the eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia to the Arabian Peninsula.

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Among the highlights are the richly decorated Offering Chapel of Ka-ni-nisut from the Old Kingdom, numerous sarcophagi and coffins, animalmummies, examples of the Book of the Dead, grave stelae, divine figures, objects of daily life etc. See selected masterpieces of the collection.

Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities

The objects in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities span a period of more than three millennia and range from Bronze Age ceramics of Cyprus dating from the 3rd millennium BC to early Medieval finds. Some 2500 objects are on permanent display. Three main areas in particular make this collection one of the best of its kind: the unique and spectacular antique cameos, including the famous Gemma Augustea, the treasure troves dating from the period of the great migrations and the early Middle Ages, such as the golden treasure of Nagyszentmiklós, and the collection of vases with such masterpieces as the Brygos Cup. See selected masterpieces of the collection.

Picture Gallery

The Picture Gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum developed from the art collections of the House of Habsburg and is one of the largest and most important of its kind in the world. It contains masterpieces from Titian, Tintoretto, Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Albrecht Dürer. Among the other highlights in the Picture Gallery are its holdings of pictures by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which are unique worldwide, as well as masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Raphael, Caravaggio, Velázquez and Italian Baroque painters. See selected masterpieces of the collection.

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And last but not least here are some of the present exhibitions that you might want to see:

In the Shadow of the Pyramids / The Austrian Excavations at Giza (1912-1929)
(from 22 January 2013 to 20 May 2013)

In January 1912 an Austrian excavation team began to uncover the first mastaba tombs near the Pyramids of Giza. The campaigns brought to light numerous artworks and objects documenting the cultural history of the Old Kingdom (c. 2687 – 2165 BC) as well as seminal information about the tombs of the ancient Egyptians and their ideas about the afterlife. Read more.

Gods in Colour / Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity
(13 November 2012 to 15 September 2013)

An exhibition of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in cooperation with the Stiftung Archäologie, Munich, and the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main

Gleaming white marble and limestone sculptures dominate our image of the Mediterranean world in classical antiquity. However, we know that ancient architecture and sculptures were once painted in vivid colours – because classical authors describe them and because 19th century archaeologist discovered remainders of paint in the course of their excavations in Italy and Greece. Read more.

Point of View #4 / Unusual Insights into the Picture Gallery
(14 February 2013 to 19 May 2013)

In 2012 the Picture Gallery began a new series of small exhibitions entitled “Points of View”.  Each showcases an unusual painting in the Picture Gallery that is rarely displayed for lack of hanging space, or that has been the focus of recent research. Read more.

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Well I hope these are reasons enough for you to visit this amazing museum!

If you had already been there, or you decide to visit after all, i am looking forward to hear what you enjoyed the most and what motivated you to visit the museum in the first place.

Sources: Kunsthistorisches Museum entry in wikipediaKunsthistorisches Museum official website

Article publié pour la première fois le 02/03/2013