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The Emperors' Artists: From Dürer to Titian, from Rubens to Velazquez Opens Today
Bernardo Bellotto called Canaletto, The Emperor’s Pleasure Palace, Court of Honour, 1758/1761, Canvas, 138 x 237 cm. Frame measures: 154.5 x 257 x 9,5 cm. © Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna, Paintings Gallery.

BADEN-BADEN/VIENNA.- For the first time since its inauguration in 2004, old masters move into the Museum Frieder Burda. Today, the light and spacious museum building, that has been designed by New York architect Richard Meier, will exhibit masterpieces of the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna that have never been shown before in Germany. Under the title “The emperors’ artists: from Dürer to Titian, from Rubens to Velazquez”, the exhibition presents a wide cross-section of the royal collections amassed by the Habsburg dynasty, from emperor Maximilian I to Maria Theresa.

In cooperation with the curators of the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna, renowned art expert Götz Adriani conceived the exhibition specifically for the Museum Frieder Burda. From February 20, 2009 to June 14, 2009, approximately 70 paintings, seven large tapestries and 50 objects from the Habsburg treasury will be on display. Among the more than 40 artists represented are, of course, Dürer, Titian, Rubens and Velazquez, but also Veronese, Tintoretto, Adrian de Vries, Jan Brueghel, Van Dyck and Canaletto are to be found. The precious large-scale tapestries of the early 18th century, commissioned by emperor Charles VI in Brussels to honor his ancestor Charles V have never been exhibited in such an abundance in Germany before.

Frieder Burda: “I was really longing to see the combination of those old masters with Richard Meier’s light and spacious modern architecture. The contrast thrills me. I myself don’t have any old masters in my collection, but I have always been fascinated by these painters. When traveling, I seize every opportunity to visit museums that exhibit old master paintings. Often, these artists still serve as a benchmark, role model and inspiration for contemporary painters. In painting only quality is crucial. In the long run, it doesn’t matter if it is old or new painting.”

Historical art personalities - The Baden-Baden exhibition comprises a selection of the sumptuous Habsburg treasury, covering the period from 1500 to 1750 - a quarter of a millennium! Götz Adriani, curator of the exhibition: “From medieval times until the 19th century, the Habsburg dynasty contributed fundamentally to the development of a common occidental consciousness. Dürer, Titian, Rubens, Velazquez – all the great artists were working for the Habsburg dynasty, who, as patrons, sponsors or collectors, used the fine arts as a reflection of their self-esteem and good reputation, as well as a means of glorification of the house of Habsburg. No other dynasty worldwide succeeded in holding power for over six centuries while developing its unique devotion to the fine arts. Without their collecting mania, internationally renowned museums like the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna and the Prado in Madrid wouldn’t be possible.”

The house of Habsburg with its ancestral country in the Upper Rhine valley, brought forth 23 kings and emperors during the period of the Holy Roman and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The exhibition, therefore, also offers a European perspective.

Precious Dürer sketchbook exhibited in Baden-Baden - Particularly interesting are the riches of the royal treasury being shown in Baden-Baden. The royal treasury of the Habsburg dynasty is reputed to be one of the most important treasury vaults in the world with numerous precious pieces made of gold, silver and glass as well as precious stones and exotic materials.

Jewel of the exhibition, though, is Albrecht Dürer’s precious sketchbook, that has never been shown outside Vienna so far. This sketchbook, which belongs to the inventory of the treasury, comprises 216 prints and engravings as well as 13 freehand drawings. Eight of the freehand drawings were drawn by Albrecht Dürer himself, four are attributed to Hans Döring and one of the drawings is of anonymous origin. Since the middle of the 16th century the leather bound book has been part of the art collection of archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595).

Thanks to the immense opulence of its treasury, the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna is numbered among the largest and most important museums worldwide and is mentioned in the same breath as the Museo del Prado in Madrid, the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The Kunsthistorische Museum was pompously inaugurated in 1891. For the first time, the greater part of the royal collections amassed by the Habsburg dynasty could now be presented under the same roof. The monumental building that was designed by the architects Gottfried Semper (1803-1879) and Karl von Hasenauer (1833-1894) became a symbol for the emperors’ patronage in itself.
Its neo-renaissance Italian style was intended to be a historic reference to a period that had been particularly important for scientific and artistic development in Europe.

With the exhibition “The Emperors’ Artists” the Museum Frieder Burda displays a selection of exemplary historical masterpieces that have never been shown in Germany before.

A catalogue edited by Götz Adriani will accompany the exhibition (Dumont Verlag, 24,80 euros, 336 pages).

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