Schönbrunn: the Public Grandeur and Private Realities of Emperors

Schönbrunn: the Public Grandeur and Private Realities of Emperors

Schonbrunn-2We begin our encounter with the astonishing  High Baroque Schönbrunn Palace (built to rival Versailles) with a stroll through the magnificent formal gardens, exploring the Baroque landscaping principle of interlaced nature and architecture that is illustrated everywhere in the layout of the grounds. Approaching the Gloriette, a huge triumphal arch situated on a hilltop with panoramic views of Vienna’s woods, we recall the military victories that made Empress Maria Theresa’s reign (1740-1780) a highpoint of the Habsburg dynasty’s political and cultural dominance in Europe.  The park was opened not only to the court but to the general public from 1779, a populist gesture that reveals Maria Theresa’s canny charm offensive towards her subjects.  Indeed, it was under Maria Theresa’s direction that Schönbrunn Palace became the focal point of Austria’s imperial policy and the centre of court life, in addition to functioning as the summer residence of a reigning family counting not less than 16 children!  Several of this teaming brood of young royals did not survive to adulthood but the palace preserves the memory of their infancy, childhood summer activities, illnesses and early loss.

Schonnbrunn-4For example, Maria Theresa’s music room was the setting of acoustical delights attended by the imperial family in a glittering Rococo ambiance of gilt mirrors and lavish chandeliers.  The six year old Mozart performed here for the family.  The Habsburgs’ devotion to the development of classical music did not end at their support of brilliant professional composers; many of the children were trained themselves as advanced musicians and expected to exhibit their skills in private entertainments held in this space. The Empress herself acted in plays in the private theater.

Schonnbrunn-3The next generation of Habsburg rulers also put their stamp on Schönbrunn.  The Franz-Joseph & Elisabeth Apartments tell the story of a couple torn apart by the burdens of state.  In 1854, Emperor Franz Joseph married the Bavarian princess Elizabeth (known better under the affectionate nickname Sisi) who despised the rituals of court life and the ornate environment of the summer palace.  Sisi commissioned a spiral staircase leading from her official rooms to a private entry from which she could flee the palace to the gardens. Visiting one lavish room after another gives us an ample sense of the opulence which country-reared Sisi fled:  The dining room with precious tableware and “imperial napkins” in the form of a “fleur de lys” witnessed countless state dinners; the Hall of Ceremonies records the pompous Baroque celebrations it hosted, such as the wedding of Crown Prince Joseph, depicted in a series of scenes by court painter Martin van Meytens; the so-called “Porcelain Room” (office of Maria Theresa), completely done in imitation of precious china with orientalist drawings drafted by the imperial children.  The unique “Millions Room” owes its name to a fabulous price in gold ducats paid for it:  antiquated Indo-Persian miniatures with rococo-frames, wall hangings manufactured of carved rosewood from the Antilles make the “Millions chamber” one of the most accomplished combinations of Oriental and European decorative art from the Rococo era.

ProkschChristine Proksch holds a BA in Cultural Journalism and a MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Copenhagen. She finished with a Master about the Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler. In order to dig deeper into her favourite topic, Austrian Literature around 1900, she studied German and Comparative Literature at the University of Vienna and fell deeply in love with the city and the vast cultural landscape. Since 1998 she has lived permanently in the city.. Today she mainly works as a cultural journalist reporting to Danish Medias about the cultural life in Central Europe. She has also written the most sold Vienna guide and guide to Austria in Denmark.
SmithNicholas Smith is an American who moved his life to Vienna after marrying an Austrian. He is in the last year of completing his MA in Journalism from Columbia University in New York City while also freelancing writing articles on Vienna history, arts and culture for The Vienna Review (the largest and most distinguished English language newspaper in Austria).
OconnorStephen O’Connor earned his PhD in Military History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He is passionate about recounting the many ferocious battles waged over Vienna from Roman times through the Ottomon Threat, Napoleon, the Habsburgs, and of course, the global wars of the 20th century. In fact, he is as passionate as most Irishmen are deemed to be at recounting a good tale of any kind, but particularly those that have to do with the fascinating history, arts and culture of the Vienna he moved to and fell in love with along with the Austrian who he married there. He presently works as a teacher of English for Viennese professionals

 

Additional Costs:
Schönbrunn Palace & Park Tickets
Individual: €17,50
Students (19-25): €16,70   Please remember to wait until the beginning of your walk to purchase your tickets in the company of your guide. There will be no long lines to get your special admission ticket for a guided visit because you have a reserved tour.   Starting Location: Schönbrunn has a special new attraction that makes a great meeting point for you and your guide. A miniature scale model of the palace complex is situated just by the main gates opposite the new Visitor Centre. Please meet your guide right at the scale model. It is impossible to miss.

 

Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

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