Fine art meets stunning baroque architecture – that’s Schloss Belvedere in a nutshell. For Klimt fans in particular it’s an absolute must because here you will find a magnificent collection of no less than 24 works by this great artist. Plus, you can discover the wonderful work of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. If you haven’t heard of him before, prepare to be amazed!
The magnificent palace complex is very beautiful and quintessentially Viennese :)
The room layout in the Upper Belvedere needs a bit of work. You need two tickets to visit the Upper and the Lower Belvedere.
Don’t try to do Schloss Belvedere and Belvedere 21 on the same day. And don’t forget to buy your ticket online in advance! It’s also worth splashing out on the excellent audio guide. It’s very informative!
EUR 16 for adults (on site) EUR 13.90 (online) EUR 12.50 euros for seniors over 65 and students under 26 (on site) EUR 4 for people with disabilities + assistants (ID) free entry for children and young people under the age of 19
Upper + Lower Belvedere have the same admission prices, but you need an extra ticket for each building.
The city of Vienna is blessed with two stunning palaces. First there’s the Schönbrunn Palace, where you can discover the story of the Austrian emperors (and the beloved Empress Sisi, of course!) and immerse yourself in their world of pomp and etiquette. And then there’s Belvedere Palace with its wonderful collection of fine art that will get any art lover excited.
The Schloss Belvedere collection extends from the Middle Ages to the present day and is spread across three different sets of buildings:
the Oberes Belvedere (Upper Belvedere),
the Unteres Belvedere (Lower Belvedere), and
You approach the Upper Belvedere through the magnificent palace gardens. Once inside, you’re transported to another world – one where beautifully decorated staircases, painted ceilings and magnificent chandeliers abound. You will find a few baroque pieces here, but the main focus is on modern art, notably romanticism, classicism, Vienna around 1900, impressionism and realism. Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Munch, Beckmann, Kirchner, Schiele and Klimt are just some of the famous names on display.
Fans of Klimt in particular are in for a real treat because Schloss Belvedere is home to the largest collection of his works in the world, including 24 of its own and many others on loan. ‘The Kiss’ and ‘Judith’, two of the very best examples of Klimt’s work, both take pride of place.
Another room is dedicated to the work of a very special German-Austrian sculptor, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, who is unfortunately not very well known outside of Austria. His wonderfully quirky character heads are not to be missed. The facial expressions in ‘Strong Smell’ and ‘The Simpleton’ are simply priceless!
Another highlight of the exhibition is the themed rooms which take you through the history of Austria and the art created during different periods, including the time between the two world wars.
The Lower Belvedere – the former residence of Prince Eugene – was unfortunately closed for renovation work when we visited, but you can normally explore the palace’s magnificent state rooms and collection of medieval art.
In contrast, Belvedere 21 is a modern exhibition centre with a regular
Do you want to know what awaits you in the Upper Belvedere?
Here you have the opportunity to stroll through the rooms with us!
Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) was born in Vienna and died there, and is one of the city’s most famous artists. His work shaped the art nouveau movement in Vienna like no other, but his pieces were not always to the liking of those who commissioned them. His father was a gold engraver and, although Klimt never wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, this influence is clear to see in Klimt’s extensive use of gold in his art. Klimt formed the ‘Company of Artists’ with his brother Ernst Klimt and friend Franz Matsch and together they received many commissions for ceiling murals in various public buildings, including the Beethoven Frieze for the Secessionsgebäude exhibition hall in Vienna.
Klimt enjoyed success during his lifetime – his work was in demand and recognized with prizes and his pieces often sold as soon as they were finished. ‘The Kiss’, for example, which Klimt painted from 1907 to 1908, was purchased immediately for the Schloss Belvedere by the Austrian Ministry for Culture at the time.
On 11 January 1918, Klimt suffered a stroke. He never recovered and died later that year on 6 February.
1908 (completed 1909) Material / technology Figural area: gold leaf, gold paint (gold powder dispersed in a binder), silver, platinum, lead, oil paints, on canvas primed with zinc white. Background: striking metal (brass), painted over with glazes Dimensions: 180 × 180 cm
‘The Kiss’ is probably the most famous of all Klimt’s paintings. It depicts a couple, deeply in love, embracing. He is kissing her softly on the cheek, while she has her eyes closed, her smile reciprocating his love. The painting was first exhibited in 1908 and purchased immediately, still unfinished, by the Austrian Ministry for Culture at the time. After the sale, Klimt continued to add changes and finishing touches – completing the flowery meadow, lengthening the lovers’ lower legs and improving the pattern on their clothes. The finished piece was finally brought to Vienna in 1909.
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736–1783) was a German-Austrian sculptor most famous for his ‘character heads’.
Never heard of him? Don’t worry – you’re not the only one! He actually isn’t all that famous. It’s sad really because he’s truly wonderful!
Hold on, though, we’re getting ahead of ourselves… Who even was Messerschmidt? He spent time living in Germany and in Austria, where he had family. Having studied in Vienna and being mentored by court painter to Maria Theresia, the ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the sovereign of a whole host of countries including Hungary, Messerschmidt ended up becoming her court sculptor.
Schloss Belvedere is home to two life-size bronze sculptures depicting Maria Theresia and Franz Stephan von Lothringen. At the more conventional end of the Messerschmidt spectrum, these figures are simple and true to real life. You can well imagine that the artist didn’t have much choice there!
From 1770, though, Messerschmidt started to shift towards caricatures in his work. Almost all of his character heads were brought to life in Pressburg, where his brother lived.
‘Heads’ was the straightforward name Messerschmidt gave to his own series of over 50 heads. Some of them have really quite normal facial expressions in keeping with their character traits and emotions. And others are seriously exaggerated and look like they’re grimacing.
It’s easy to see that Messerschmidt didn’t hold back when he was creating all these heads with different facial expressions. He would study himself in the mirror and, when that wasn’t enough, make random people in the street jump. He took this so far that he even started holding a weapon up to people’s faces and capturing their reactions in his sculptures.
Schloss Belvedere has a whole room dedicated to Messerschmidt and 12 character heads for you to take a look at.
Belvedere Palace A bit of history
The palace and its gardens were created between 1714 and 1723 for Prince Eugene, a descendant of the royal house of Savoy. Prince Eugene became an influential figure in the Habsburg Empire, serving as Imperial Field Marshal, Commander in Chief of the Imperial Army and even President of the Imperial War Council. When he decided to build a summer residence to supplement his winter one, he bought a plot of land outside the city walls at the time. The estate already contained a small pleasure palace, and in 1714 Prince Eugene commissioned Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt to transform the building for him. Just two years later the Lower Belvedere was complete, including the residential apartment, orangery, royal stables and ceremonial rooms, the largest and most iconic of which is the Marmorsaal (Marble Hall).
From 1720 to 1723, Hildebrandt was again appointed to work on the Upper Belvedere. The original plans were for a relatively small upper palace, but Prince Eugene purchased additional plots to give Hildebrandt more scope. The unusual shape of the palace is particularly striking thanks to its pavilion-style architecture, which cleverly combines several building blocks (or wings), all with different roof designs. Even once the Upper Belvedere was complete, Prince Eugene continued to live in the Lower Belvedere, preferring to keep the upper palace for ceremonial use only.
Following Prince Eugene’s death in 1752, the estate was sold to the imperial family, or more specifically to Empress Maria Theresia. In 1775, her son, Joseph II, moved the imperial picture gallery to the Upper Belvedere. In 1890, however, the collection was moved to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien where it can still be seen today.
From 1896 until his death in 1914, the Upper Belvedere was the residence of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne. He used the palace to display his extensive ethnographic collection, which included no less than 18,000 pieces from his travels around the world.
A deliberate counterpoint to Ferdinand’s international collection, the Modern Gallery was opened in the Lower Belvedere in 1903 with the specific aim of showcasing Austrian art. Klimt’s painting ‘The Kiss’ was famously purchased for this collection in 1908, despite the piece still being unfinished!
Following the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, Schloss Belvedere became the property of the First Austrian Republic and the collections were divided between the Upper and Lower Belvedere. Franz Ferdinand’s collection was taken temporarily to Schloss Artstetten and then later housed in the Archduke Franz Ferdinand Museum there.
The Belvedere palaces suffered considerable damage during World War II. Both the Marmorsaal (Marble Hall) in the Upper Belvedere (yes, there used to be one there too!) and the Groteskensaal (Hall of Grotesques) in the Lower Belvedere were destroyed.
Since the 1990s, the Belvedere collections have grown in prominence, with the exhibitions on Claude Monet, Klimt and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt all attracting record visitor numbers.