Belvedere Palace

Prince Eugene of Savoy was a scrawny, innocuous little runt who nonetheless became a mighty warrior and helped defeat the Ottomans decisively, once at the Siege of Vienna in 1683, and more famously at the Battle of Zenta in 1697. He was thus instrumental in keeping all of Europe from becoming a Muslim caliphate, at least until today, and the riches that came his way as a result were poured into the Baroque masterpiece of Belvedere, his summer palace in Vienna, Austria.

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Today, the two Belvederes: upper and lower, are museums, and they house among other things the largest collection of Gustav Klimt art in the world. The park-like grounds themselves are decorated with statues of mythical beasts and gods, acres of flowers, and of course dancing fountains. 

A good way to see the complex is to enter at the north end through the lower Belvedere gate. I do not recommend seeing this building as there is virtually no period furniture preserved from the 18th century and the art collection isn’t as extensive as the upper. Walk south toward the Upper Belvedere through the gardens snapping pictures as you go, then see the art collection in the upper.

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Arrive early, as hordes of Asian tourists will descend shortly after 10AM, rendering the viewing of such masterpieces as “The Kiss” and Judith” problematic at best. 

I’m conflicted about the art because, while I love it aesthetically, it heralds a new direction that European culture took in the final decades of the 19th century toward the deification of man as god and the elevation of lust, power, infidelity, and even murder as virtues. That Europe was soon embroiled in a dark and murderous conflict of its own is not, I think, coincidental.  Life imitates art.

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