The Kunsthistorisches Museum is an art museum in Vienna. Housed in its festive palatial building on Ringstraße, it is crowned with an octagonal dome. It is the largest art museum in the country.
It was opened around 1891 at the same time as the Naturhistorisches Museum, by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary. The two museums have similar exteriors and face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz. Both buildings were built between 1871 and 1891 according to plans drawn up by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer.
The two Ringstraße museums were commissioned by the Emperor in order to find a suitable shelter for the Habsburgs' formidable art collection and to make it accessible to the general public. The façade was built of sandstone. The building is rectangular in shape, and topped with a dome that is 60 meters high. The inside of the building is lavishly decorated with marble, stucco ornamentations, gold-leaf, and paintings.
The museum's primary collections are those of the Habsburgs, particularly from the portrait and armour collections of Ferdinand of Tirol, the collections of Emperor Rudolph II and the collection of paintings of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, of which his Italian paintings were first documented in the Theatrum Pictorium.
Notable works in the picture gallery include masterpieces from Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, Tintoretto, Rembrandt, Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rupens.References:
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.