The ensemble with the two castles (Upper and Lower Belvedere) and the artistically designed gardens is one of the most beautiful baroque complexes in the world. It also houses a important collection of artworks from the Middle Ages to the present.
The baroque castle complex was built for Prince Eugene of Savoy as a summer residence according to the plans of architect Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt. As a commander and diplomat, Prince Eugene not only shaped the political events in the Habsburg Monarchy, but as a collector and patron of arts also had a lasting influence on the art and cultural history of Austria.
The Lower Belvedere was completed in 1716. The former living quarters of Prince Eugene are now used for exhibitions of Austrian art in an international context. The representative state rooms provide an insight into the lifestyle and craftsmanship of the Baroque era.
The Upper Belvedere, which was completed after six years of construction in 1723, served representative purposes. After Prince Eugene's death in 1736, his niece Princess Victoria was appointed as his heiress. 16 years later Empress Maria Theresa acquired the properties of the Belvedere.
The name of the castle complex is taken from the Italian and means "beautiful view" (bel vedere). The Italian landscape painter Bernardo Bellotto, known as Canaletto, captured in a painting the perspective of downtown Vienna as seen from the Belvedere Palace. This so-called "Canaletto View" of Vienna can be enjoyed from the Marble Hall of the Upper Belvedere. On the oil painting from the middle of the 18th century, the dome of the Karlskirche can be seen on the left, the tower of the Stephansdom in the middle and the dome of the Salesianerinnenkirche on the right.
In the spirit of the ideals of Enlightened Absolutism, Maria Theresa, together with her son Emperor Joseph II, decides to move the Imperial Picture Gallery from the Stallburg to the Upper Belvedere .In 1781 the Picture Gallery was opened as one of the first public museums in the world. In 1788 the imperial collections were transferred to the newly built Kunsthistorisches Museum.
The portrait sculpture of Maria Theresa in the entrance hall of the Upper Belvedere was created by the sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt and depicts the monarch as Queen of Hungary.
Gustav Klimt: Fritza Riedler, 1906
On the initiative of Gustav Klimt, Carl Moll and other representatives of the contemporary avant-garde, the state "Modern Gallery" is established in the Lower Belvedere in 1903. The holdings consist of state purchases, donations from private individuals and loans from other museums.
Gustav Klimt: The Kiss (Lovers), 1907/08
With 24 works the Belvedere holds the world's largest collection of oil paintings by the world-famous Art Nouveau artist including the two masterpieces from his 'Golden Period': The Kiss and Judith.
Ai Weiwei, 2016
The castle garden also serves as a presentation area for works by contemporary artists. In the summer of 2016, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei erected twelve monumental bronze sculptures symbolizing the Chinese Zodiac around the water basin behind the Upper Belvedere.
The baroque garden, which connects the Lower and Upper Belvedere, was laid out around 1700 by the French garden architect Dominique Girard. The differences in level between the two palace complexes are marked by two sculpturally rich cascading fountains. Numerous sphinxes and other figures from Greek mythology line the paths. On the southern side of the Upper Belvedere, the imposing palace façade is reflected in a pool of water. The gardens have been open to the public since 1870.
All photos without reference were taken by me. The information is mainly taken from the website of the Belvedere Wien