- Mika Vepsalainen
Liechtenstein Garden Palace - a Private Baroque Palace with Priceless Art Treasures
Join us for a visit to a Viennese secret, the Gartenpalais of the Liechtenstein dynasty that is only open a couple of times a month and during the special exhibitions in March.
The Liechtenstein estate looks back on more than three hundred years of history. In 1687 Prince Johann Adam Andreas von Liechtenstein acquired a garden with neighbouring meadows from Count Weikhard von Auersperg in Rossau. The prince had a palace built in the southern part of the property and founded a brewery in the north. Eventually, there were two palaces built and both the magnificent Garden Palace and the City Palace are still privately owned by the princely Liechtenstein family. The City Palace is known for works of Biedermeier and Classicism from the private art collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein, while the Garden Palace is know for its masterpieces from the early Renaissance to the high baroque.
The Liechtenstein Garden Palace was named for its manicured gardens which is an oasis of manicured gardens and stunning architecture. It is one of Vienna’s most opulent and under-the-radar destinations for lavish Baroque architecture. The garden was laid out in the spirit of a classic baroque garden. The vases and statues were executed by the Giovanni Giuliani based on plans by Giuseppe Mazza. Around 1820, the garden was redesigned in the classical sense according to plans by Joseph Kornhäusel.
Walking across the part-French-Baroque, part-English garden towards the pale-yellow complex, you will see the Mediterranean influence. The garden is open to visitors and locals who want to relax in flower beds.
The Garden Palace was built by Prince Johann Adam Andreas von Liechtenstein who commissioned Domenico Egidio Rossi to carry out the design and construction. The shell was finished in 1700. One of the first things you encounter on the ground level of the palace is the Golden Carriage inside the Sala Terrena. Underneath a frescoed arcade hall, the opulent French Rococo vehicle shines in illustrious gilding. The carriage is part of the Princely Collection. Works by van Dyck, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Rubens are on view one level above, along with the Badminton Cabinet, the most expensive piece of furniture ever auctioned. Another highlight on the second floor is Hercules Hall, a ballroom-sized space with ceiling frescoes depicting the Greek hero’s admittance to Olympus. The ceiling was completed between 1704 and 1708 and has been preserved to its original Baroque colouration— marvel at the marble columns and the larger-than-life paintings along the walls. Finally, the palace’s Princely Library is a grand, wood-panelled room holding around 100,000 volumes from the 15th to the 19th centuries.
From 1805 to 1938 the palace housed the family collection of the House of Liechtenstein, which was also open to the public but he collection was transferred to Liechtenstein, which remained neutral during the war and was not bombed. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Viennese Building Centre was a tenant in the palace sporting a permanent exhibition for the builders of single-family houses and similar buildings.
The Museum of the 20th Century, a federal museum that had previously been housed in the 20er Haus, rented the Palais in April 1979 and the collection was named the Museum of Modern Art (since 1991 the Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig Vienna); In 2001, the mumok moved to the newly built MuseumsQuartier - see our separate review!
The regular museum operations in both the Garden Palace and the City Palace came to an end in January 2012. Although the Liechtenstein Garden Palace is no longer a museum, it houses part of the art collection of the Liechtenstein dynasty which is one of the largest and most important private collections in the world. There is also porcelain, an extensive collection of bronzes and one of the best surviving French ceremonial coaches - the "Golden Carriage" from 1738. A particularly valuable exhibit is the Badminton Cabinet, the most valuable piece of furniture in the world. The great variety of paintings, sculptures, furniture, porcelain and tapestries, together with the architecture of the Liechtenstein Garden Palace, conveys the pleasant and noble atmosphere of a family collection.
March in the Palace: Since 2022, Liechtenstein Garden Palace beckons with a special attraction every March. In 2023, it is all about bronze sculptures, under the motto "Cast for Eternity". There are precious objects from the Princely Collection on show, such as the "Bust of Marcus Aurelius" by Antico, Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi's "Anima Dannata" or the "Bust of Ferdinando I de' Medici" by Pietro Tacca. Visitors can also look forward to high-quality loan items, such as Leonardo da Vinci's "Rearing Horse and Mounted Warrior" and the "Eagle Lectern" of Hildesheim Cathedral.
The origins of the bronze collection in the Princely House of Liechtenstein go back a long way to Prince Karl I. In addition to his role as head of government affairs for Emperor Rudolf II, he was also responsible for the ruler's art collections at the beginning of the 17th century. His great passion for art is evident from an exchange of letters between the two, in which he tells the Emperor about his private collection of "superbly strange works of art and paintings".
In the course of his work, Charles I commissioned Adrian de Fries to create his first bronze sculptures for his own collection. Thus, the figure of "Christ in misery" and a few years later the equally monumental "Saint Sebastian" passed into the possession of the princely family. With this, Charles I gave a crucial impetus to a tradition that continues to this day. The first item of princely collecting is the larger-than-life bronze of Christ in Misery commissioned by Prince Karl I from Adrian de Fries in 1607. From his direct descendant Karl Eusebius I to the current Prince Hans-Adam II, the collecting continues, thanks to which the House of Liechtenstein owns one of the most valuable bronze collections in the world.
The reigning Prince Hans-Adam II has made some new acquisitions, which have developed the bronze collection into one of the most renowned in the world. A high point in the collection of Renaissance bronzes is the »Bust of Marc Aurel« from Antico.
The Prince also acquired one of the most exciting examples of the use of precious materials in 2004: the »Badminton Cabinet«, which is crowned by the heavily fire-gilded allegories of the »Four Seasons« based on designs by Girolamo Ticciati. These bronzes are among the last great witnesses to the culture of bronze sculpture in Florence and will be on display in the exhibition for the first time as autonomous works of art. Also on display for the first time is the most recent capital acquisition of the Princely Collections: the magical, monumental »Bust of Ferdinando I de’ Medici« by Pietro Tacca.
The palace provides easy access with wheel chairs and for persons with prams with no steps in the exhibition rooms with the exception of three steps to the library. There are parking spaces for people with disabilities on Fürstengasse.
There is a wheelchair accessible loo in the basement, with a lift down from the entry hall.
There is no museum café nor shop.
If you want to know more about the House of Liechtenstein in Austria, you might also wish to visit their original castle, Burg Liechtenstein just a good hour's drive southwest from Vienna, next to the Wienerwald Forest, see our review!
Fürstengasse 1 | 1090 Vienna