Maria- Theresien- Platz
Tel. 01- 525 24-0
Subway: Babenberger Strasse, Volkstheater
Bus: 2A, 57A
Open: 10am- 6pm Tue- Sun
Closed: Jan 1, May 1, Nov 1, Dec 25
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is translated as a Museum of Art History or Fine Arts. It was constructed in 1872-1891 as a site for a largest collection of works of art in Vienna and all of Austria. The basis for the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum started with personal collection of Habsburgs. The building layout and appearance was designed by an architect Gottfried Semper. His original majestic project included the palace, garden, museum, theater and arena. The crown didn't get needed funds so only two museum buildings were completed. One of these museums was reserved for the Museum of Art History.
Museum of Art History is divided into several categories: the art of Italy, France, the Netherlands (or Lowlands), Mannerist period (the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque), the Ancient World, Spanish art and finally contemporary art. Collection of the museum includes works of well known artists and their paintings, tapestries, sculptures, glassware, jewelry, coins and many others.
The museum was created from the collections of the
Habsburgs, especially from the portrait and armor collection of
Ferdinand of Tyrol, the collection of Emperor Rudolf II (the
majority of which is scattered) and the painting collection of
Archduke Leopold Wilhelm. As early as 1833, Joseph von Arneth,
curator (and later director) of the Imperial Cabinet of Coin and
Antiquities, called for all imperial collections to be brought
together in a single building.
The order to build the museum was given by Emperor Franz Joseph I, who had decided to demolish the city wall at Christmas 1857, in the course of the city expansion that began in 1858.
As a result, numerous designs for the ring road zone were submitted. Plans by August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll planned to build two museum buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Hofburg, to the left and right of today's Heldenplatz. The architect Ludwig Förster planned museum buildings between Schwarzenbergplatz and the city park. Martin Ritter von Kink preferred buildings on the corner of Währinger Strasse / Schottenring, where the Votive Church was subsequently built. Peter Joseph Lenné suggested the area around Bellariastraße (not far from the actually chosen location). Moritz von Loehr wanted to build the two court museums on the south side of the Opera Ring (where the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts was later built), Ludwig Zettl on the southeast side of the grain market.
In 1867, a competition was launched for the museums, and their position was determined today - at the emperor's request, the museums should not be too close to the Hofburg, but beyond the Ringstrasse. The architect Carl von Hasenauer took part in this competition and was able to persuade Gottfried Semper, who was then working in Zurich, to work together. The two museum buildings were to be built in the style of the Italian Renaissance. The plans found the goodwill of the imperial family. In April 1869 there was an audience with Semper at the emperor and the oral order was placed, in July 1870 the written order went to Semper and Hasenauer.
The decisive factor for Semper and Hasenauer's success compared to other architects' projects was a. Semper's vision of a large building complex called the “Kaiserforum”, in which the museums would have been part. Not least due to the death of Semper in 1879, the Imperial Forum was not carried out in the planned form, but the two museums were built.
The construction of the two museums began on November 27, 1871 without any celebrations. Semper subsequently moved to Vienna. From the beginning there were considerable personal differences between him and Hasenauer, who finally took over the sole construction management from 1877. In 1874 the scaffolding was erected up to the top floor and the mezzanine was completed; In 1878 the first windows were installed, in 1879 the parapet and the balustrade were completed and in 1880–1881 the dome and the tabernacle were built.
The attic is surrounded by statues that represent personalities from the field of art. The sculpture jewelry was made by Edmund Hellmer, Carl Kundmann, Viktor Tilgner, Caspar Zumbusch and others. The entrance is flanked by seated allegorical statues of painting (left by Edmund Hellmer) and sculpture (right of Johannes Benk). The dome is crowned with a bronze statue of Pallas Athena by Johannes Benk.
The staircase of the Kunsthistorisches Museum is furnished with works by Gustav Klimt, Ernst Klimt, Franz Matsch, Hans Makart and Mihály Munkácsy.
The lighting and air conditioning concept with double glazing of the ceilings made it possible to dispense with artificial light (at that time primarily as gas lighting), but due to this daylight dependency led to seasonally different opening times.