In 1725 Prince Eugene of Savoy purchased a seventeenth-century citadel with four wings and had it extended by two wings to surround the resulting Ehrenhof, the parade courtyard. Maria Theresa purchased the country seat thirty years later, in 1755. The castle underwent radical changes between 1773 and 1775; the building was raised one storey and the rooms on the first floor remodelled.
The staircase forms the approach to the ceremonial rooms on the first floor. The tour begins in the North Wing with the former residential apartment of Prince Eugene, which was remodelled for Emperor Joseph II. The rooms of the East Wing, overlooking the glories of the garden, are devoted to a detailed presentation of the life and significance of the art connoisseur and military commander Prince Eugene of Savoy. The way leads via the Baroque chapel and the Neo-classical banqueting hall finally to the chambers of Maria Theresa in the South Wing.
Each room harbours fascinating and unique features, vividly reflecting the joie de vivre of the eighteenth century.
Today’s Imperial Apartment originally comprised the private chambers of Prince Eugene. In 1773-75 the rooms were altered in appearance and function.
In the age of Prince Eugene people enjoyed the luxury beverage of coffee in rooms especially provided for the activity, as is reflected in the name Caffee Zimmer, the Coffee Room. The Baroque fireplace with the relief by Alberto Camesina still alludes today to the room’s original function: a youth refreshes the lady with the exotic drink.
Forty years later the room was given a new design as antechamber for Emperor Joseph II’s apartment. In keeping with the vogue for chinoiserie in the second half of the eighteenth century, the walnut panelling was replaced by hand-painted Chinese silk fabric.
The style had changed drastically: the austere, linear forms of Neo-classicism replaced the curving lines of Baroque. The change in aesthetic taste is clearly recognisable in the furniture.
The “table” or dining room – Taffel Stuben – was used for private meals with close friends and family members. In the eighteenth century the table was assembled and laid quite flexibly according to requirement and number of guests. In keeping with its function as hunting lodge, game was the main dish on the menu; the favoured wines came from Prince Eugene’s Hungarian vineyards. After the meal, the table was taken down and carried out of the room. The resplendent fireplace and the stucco decorations are from the age of Prince Eugene and allude to the function of the room.
In the 1770s the original walnut wall panelling was painted white and gold and the room re-furnished. The pictures with views of Naples by Antonio Jolli also date to this period. They possibly originated as a reference to the marriage of Maria Karolina, Maria Theresa’s daughter, to King Ferdinand of Naples-Sicily.
The rules of Baroque etiquette demanded that every important room had at least one antechamber. Visitors or petitioners had to wait for their host in this antechamber and were received either here or in the audience chamber.
This function was radically altered forty years after Prince Eugene’s death: a private room was made out of the official one, and chess or cards etc. were played on specially made gaming tables.
The walls and furniture are covered with colourfully patterned cotton fabric imported from India, now reconstructed after the original. The stucco decorations still date from the 1730s and take as their allegorical subject the dormant Art of War and thus the associated flourishing of the Fine Arts.
The original function of this room as Prince Eugene’s audience chamber is evidenced by the ceiling relief. Two goddesses, Pallas Athene and Prudentia, are indications that the military commander handles matters justly and makes discerning decisions.
By the 1770s, the room had long been divested of its function as audience chamber. The function is completely modified by appointing it as a bed chamber. The former wall coverings with yellow and white silk was replaced by an Indian cotton fabric. This fabric was used also to reconstruct the bed according to the original model and to upholster the Neo-classicist furnishings.
Prince Eugene’s bed chamber was the highest ranking room in his apartment and hence its highlight. The windows opened up a view for him onto the estate farm and gardens. The predilection in the Baroque era for bold colours was particularly evident here: the dark-blue espaliered damask walls offered a strong contrast to the four-poster bed in yellow silk.
Forty years after the Prince’s death both the function and the appearance of the room were completely altered. The entire furnishings from the 1730s were removed and a luxurious drawing room appointed. Both walls and furniture were covered with a silk fabric manufactured in Europe and modern in the eighteenth century – the so-called Chiné à la branche or ikat.
Prince Eugene Exhibition
Prince Eugene Exhibition
Four rooms on the east side of the palace are devoted to a permanent presentation devoted to the life and career of Prince Eugene of Savoy.
It illustrates the reasons why the Prince, a legend in his lifetime, has never ceased to fascinate people for three centuries and how politicians, the military and art lovers have used this popularity for their own purposes, and still do. The scenes of his military battles are shown, likewise his opulently furnished properties.
A key focus is on the Prince’s pronounced passion for collecting: even during his lifetime he was noted for his love of flora and fauna and as a collector of precious books, also objets d’art and scientific instruments.
The two-storeyed dome-vaulted chapel has to a great degree kept its original appearance as it was in the days of Prince Eugene.
Carlo Innocenzo Carlone painted a portrayal of God the Father and the Holy Ghost. In conjunction with the altarpiece painted by Francesco Solimena, they represent the Holy Trinity.
The walls of the two lofts show oval medallions in white with depictions of the Christian virtues. The stucco decorations are by Santino Bussi and Alberto Camesina. Remarkable for their high quality are the pews from the time of Prince Eugene.
Marie Christine, Maria Theresa’s favourite daughter, married Duke Albert of Saxony-Tesche here in 1766; he was the founder of the Albertina.
The chapel is currently being restored. The baroque chapel from the times of Prince Eugen will appear again brilliantly in summer 2020.
The appearance of the banqueting hall goes back to its remodelling in the 1770s. Compared with the Baroque chapel, this room is imbued with the austere aesthetics of Neo-classicism. The stucco decorations were executed by Karl Martin Keller.
Originally there were several large gaming tables in this room. Besides the sconces (replicas after the originals), three large glass chandeliers illuminated the hall with a total of 140 candles. Today the hall provides a splendid background for concerts.
The white stucco relief on the ceiling dates from the time of Prince Eugene. It shows the mythological depiction of the hunt with the goddess Diana as central figure, alluding to the palace’s use as hunting lodge.
Maria Theresa’s Apartment
Maria Theresa’s Apartment
In 1773 Prince Eugene’s ceremonial apartment was completely remodelled for Maria Theresa. Originally this wing contained Eugene’s battle picture gallery, a conversation room and a ceremonial bed chamber. As apartment for the dowager Maria Theresa, the rooms are kept to this day in an elegant colour scheme of white and grey.
Integrated into the wall panelling of the antechamber are eight battle pictures produced by the circle surrounding August Querfurth. They show battles in which Emperor Francis I Stephen functioned as (nominal) supreme military commander over the Imperial Army. Maria Theresa can be seen on one of the pictures in a coach while inspecting the army camp near Heidelberg in 1745.
This room is ideal for showing the combination of furniture from three stylistic epochs: Maria Theresa did not have the Baroque console table and glass chandelier removed but combined them with the mid-eighteenth-century gaming tables and the white chairs from the 1770s.
The audience chamber ranked the highest in the hierarchy of rooms in the apartment. This is clearly reflected in the furnishings: this room is the only one with parcel-gilt walls and furniture, two large mirrors and a fireplace.
The large painting by Joseph Hauzinger shows in its centre Louis XVI of France with Marie Antoinette and Archduke Maximilian. It forms part of the family paintings made between 1776 and 1778 for the audience chamber and the drawing room, and shows the children of Maria Theresa. A competition was advertised at the Vienna Academy of Art for this assignment, winners were a professor and three students. Of the eight paintings, five are now once more in Schloss Hof.
The drawing room is dominated by four large-format family pictures dated 1776, let into the grey-and-white wall panelling. The pictorial programme was especially devised according to Maria Theresa’s wishes and is connected to the pictorial adornment of the neighbouring audience chamber.
The paintings show the monarch’s children who were living in Italy. The pictures of the sons with their families flank those of the daughters with their families. The compositions of the individual paintings allude to one another through gestures, linking private family scenes with the standards of prestige demanded by etiquette.
In the grey bed chamber espaliered with silk taffeta stands Maria Theresa’s bed, reconstructed after the original. The high quality of the fabrics from the time of Prince Eugene was appreciated even forty years after his death: textile components of a bed from his time were re-used for the monarch’s bed.
The portrait of Maria Theresa in dowager weeds, attributed to Anton von Maron, shows her with the Order of the Star Cross, the female counterpart of the Order of the Golden Fleece. A small room is connected to the bed chamber, a so-called retirade, originally containing a toilet.
The servants room is devoted thematically to the favourite drink of the eighteenth century, hot chocolate. The exotic beverage was served in a special receptacle, the trembleuse[a1] . This type of beaker was remarkable for its special fixture, consisting of a ring fastened to the saucer to fix the beaker. This was designed to prevent any shaking or “trembling” from spilling the contents or tipping the beaker.
The sala terrena, the hall on the ground floor, forms the link between the architecture of the palace and the natural scenery of the garden.
Crossing the room takes you to the Baroque garden. Prince Eugene had the hall decked with gilded stucco and especially on hot summer days lingered in this pleasantly cool place.
During the nineteenth century the room became more and more neglected so that in 1898 it was decided to remove the so called entrelac stucco completely. Nevertheless, remnants of the room’s former glory remained, which were integrated into the reconstruction of the hall for the Prince Eugene Exhibition in 1986.