Glittering Spectacles - Celebrating at Court
Special Exhibition 2014
What could be better than a vibrant party atmosphere and exuberant festivities? Festive celebrations were held during the Baroque age for all sorts of reasons, to mark the births of noble offspring, weddings, princes’ name-days or in honour of the imperial family – whatever the occasion elaborate celebrations were the order of the day. But what sort of celebration was deemed appropriate for which occasion? What sort of dress was considered fitting, and was strict court ceremonial observed at these festivities? The temporary exhibition Glittering Spectacles - Celebrating at Court explores the world of courtly celebrations through the use of contemporary accounts, including a description of the famous Baroque celebrations held over three days at Hof Palace in 1754, as well as multi-media installations to illustrate the elaborate festivities that took place during the time of Prince Eugene and Maria Theresa.
Feasts and festivities at court are associated with glamorous spectacles and elaborate displays of magnificence. When i came to coronations, weddings, births, baptisms, name-days or birthdays, funerals or jubilees, nothing was left to chance.
The exhibition ranges from the spectacular operas and equestrian ballets of Emperor Leopold I to the Hungarian coronation of Emperor Karl and Empress Zita in the winter of 1916. The success of courtly festivities was alo dependant on the suitable magnificent setting for the balls, banquets and other spectacles. Elaborate programmes of festivities were offered for all seasons of the year: at Carnival with masquerades and masked balls, in summer with garden parties and fetes champetres, in autumn with hunting and feasts marking the wine harvest, in winter with sleigh rides and festive pageants.
Over the centuries the great festivities at court were determined by staged performances, surprise effects and ceremonial reguations, all of which required lage numes of people, behind the scenes. As a feudal priviledge, chasses de plaisance and hunting parties enjoyed a particular precendence among festive entertainments, and for many Habsburgs became a vertiable passion. In 1745, Hof Palace itelf became the setting for celebrations lasting several days, organized by Prince Joseph Friedrich of Saxe-Hilbughausen in honour of the imperial couple Franz Stephan and Maria Theresia. The final section of the exhibition gives visitors an insight into the vanities and habits - good and bad - that characteized the upper echelons of society.