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All the Histories of Art: Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Exhibit at Guggenheim in Bilbao
Orazio Lomi Gentileschi (Pisa, 1563 – London, 1639), Penitent Mary Magdalene, ca. 1621-23, Oil on canvas, 163 x 208 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Picture Gallery, inv. nr. 179.

BILBAO.- The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents All the Histories of Art: Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna , the first and most comprehensive and innovative show ever presented in Spain about the collection of Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna , one of the oldest museums in the world.

With a selection of almost 200 works and around one hundred artists ranging from Egypt and the ancient world to the 18th century, the show, which has been generously sponsored by Iberdrola, is divided into six major sections that correspond to the main artistic genres in art history. However, these genres are not limited solely to the examples provided by what are traditionally called the “major arts”, as they also include samples of the art dubbed “industrial”, “sumptuary” or “decorative”.

Curated by Carmen Giménez, 20th Century Art Conservator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and Francisco Calvo Serraller, Professor of Art History at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, the exhibition features works by great masters such as Arcimboldo, Dürer, Holbein, Tintoretto, Titian, Rubens, Velázquez and others. It is especially relevant given the common shared history between Austria and Spain and the cultural and artistic mark that the Habsburg dynasty left on both countries.

All the Histories of Art presents such disparate works as paintings, works from the ancient world, coins, armour, sculptures and objects from what were called cabinets of curiosities (Kunstkammern), which give insight into the taste of the Hapsburg emperors and archdukes, avid collectors and sponsors of the arts for over five centuries. The entire third floor of the museum will house a painstakingly culled selection of 197 works, which revolve around the main artistic genres in art history according to a more up-to-date discourse: portraiture; history, religion and mythology; the nude; everyday scenes; still lifes; and landscapes. All of these genres are illustrated with a fascinating juxtaposition of paintings and objects.

The first section of the exhibition is devoted to the genre of portraiture, which over the centuries has been represented in a vast variety of media and supports. The museum’s halls give spectators the chance to admire everything from sculptures from ancient Egypt and the classical world to canvases by the great painting masters including Holbein, Titian, Tintoretto, Rubens, Van Dyck and Velázquez. This section also includes sculptures, armour, decorative objects and an extensive array of commemorative medals and coins. In all these works, the different schools, periods and disciplines blend and contrast with each other, forging a dialogue that highlights the unique nature of each of them.

Sculptures from the Early, Middle and Late Kingdoms of ancient Egypt and the classical world are displayed alongside portraits as famous as Holbein’s Jane Seymour (1508/9–1537) (ca. 1536/37), Tintoretto’s Portrait of a White-bearded Man (ca. 1570/78) and Velázquez’s Infanta Margarita Teresa (1651–1673) in a Blue Gown (1659). Along with Foot-Combat Helmet of Maximilian I and Philip the Handsome (ca. 1500), the sculptures of Charles V and Mary of Hungary crafted by Leoni, and the decorative objects, coins and medallions, together they are clear examples of the quality of the collections presented in the genre of portraiture.

History, Religion and Mythology
The second section, devoted to the “painting of history”, is one of the most outstanding in the exhibition, not just because of the sheer number of works but also because of their quality and the dialogue that is forged among them.

Examples of some of the most acclaimed paintings in this section are Dürer’s Madonna Nursing the Child (1503), Titian’s Christ and the Adulterous Woman (ca. 1512/15), Cranach the Elder’s Lot and his Daughters (1528), Carracci’s Pietà (ca. 1603), Rubens’ The lamentation over Christ (1614) and Penitent Mary Magdalene and her Sister Martha (ca. 1620), and Gentileschi’s Penitent Magdalene (ca. 1621/23).

These paintings are accompanied by bronze sculptures such as Leone Leoni’s The Man called “Chained Barbarian” (1550–60), precious ivories from the Kunstkammer such as the Adoration of the Magi (ca. 1650) crafted by an anonymous artist who drew his inspiration from one of Rubens’ works, and two magnificent tapestries from the late 17th century.

The Nude
The nude, the focal point of the third section in this exhibition, complements and culminates the “painting of history” through such illustrious artists as Palma il Vecchio, Titian, Bartholomeus Spranger, and Veronese. Their paintings are joined by wonderful sculptures and decorative objects coming from both the private cabinets of the Hapsburgs, the Kunstkammer and Wunderkammer, and the collections of the different emperors and archdukes from the dynasty.

The most outstanding works in this section include Palma il Vecchio’s Nymphs at their Bath (ca. 1525–28) about the subject of bathing, along with Giambologna’s Venus after Bathing (ca. 1580–85?), Titian’s Mars, Venus and Cupid (after 1546) and a sumptuous ivory jug cover dating from the mid-17th century.

Everyday Scenes
Popular everyday and costumbrist scenes are represented by the magnificent works of Adriaen van Ostade, Bernardo Strozzi, David Teniers the Younger and Alessandro Magnasco.

Villages and streets, markets, taverns and popular festivities are reflected in such outstanding works as Adriaen van Ostade’s Village Barber (ca. 1637), Bernardo Strozzi’s Lute Player (ca. 1640–44) and Alessandro Magnasco’s Interrogation in Jail (ca. 1710–20), as well as a small funerary limestone statue crafted during the 6th dynasty of the Old Kingdom and discovered in Giza, which portrays a Servant Grinding Grain.

Still Lifes
To illustrate the subject of still lifes, Hall 302 will house works by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan Davidsz. de Heem, alongside objects from the Kunstkammer or cabinets of art.

This section is where the taste for collecting and the objects housed in the Kunstkammer are best represented. The scientific and decorative objects shed light on the universe that remained concealed inside these tiny cabinets of curiosities for the emperors’ private pleasure. Along with them, you can also see Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Fire (1566), part of a series that the artist rendered about the four elements: fire, water, air and earth, only three of which remain today (two in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna).

The tour around All the Histories of Art: Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna comes to an end in the sixth section, which houses views of country life, seascapes and cityscapes by such prominent painters and Patinir, Bril, Van Goyen, Van Ruisdael, Gainsborough and Bellotto. This section also showcases three magnificent commessi in pietre dure (hard rock mosaics) by Castrucci and three small objects dating from the 16th century showing animal shapes that accompany Savery’s painting entitled Landscape with Birds (dated 1628). This selection of works illustrates the evolution of this genre from the 16th century until the second half of the 18th century.

With this varied assembly of subjects from historical works, which stand in striking contrast to the singular contemporary space of Frank Gehry’s building, the goal of this exhibition is to showcase the diversity of the encyclopaedic collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna in an effort to provide visitors with a unique chance to enjoy its extraordinary collections.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna
The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna houses the royal collections amassed by the Hapsburg dynasty, avid collectors and sponsors of the arts for more than five centuries. The current museum was officially opened by Emperor Franz Josef (1830-1916) in 1891.

The core of this collection are the Kunstkammer (Collection of Sculpture and the Decorative Arts) and Wunderkammer (Cabinet of Curiosities) of Archiduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol and Emperor Rudolph II, both of which are represented in this show. Furthermore, the museum’s collection also includes exquisite samples of Egyptian, Greek and Roman art and antiques, mediaeval art, and Renaissance and Baroque art. The museum has eight different collections, some of which are housed in the Hofburg and Schönbrunn palaces in Vienna.

Under the reign of Charles VI (1685-1740), the collection was united in Vienna and organised into a detailed presentation of the works. Later on, under the influence of the leading figures from the Enlightenment, the collection was catalogued in the 18th century, systematising its organisation according to the different schools. At that time, too, the collections were opened to the public for the first time three days a week.

The close relationship between the history of Austria and Spain, which for centuries shared the same dynasty, the Hapsburgs, underscores the relevancy of this exhibition and the cooperation between these two institutions, both of which are aware of the major cultural and artistic mark that the Austrians left in Spain.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated publication that includes essays by Francisco Calvo Serraller and Franz Pichorner (Deputy Director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna), as well as overview commentaries on the works on display written by the conservators and researchers at the Kunsthistorisches.

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