Kunsthistorisches Museum | Accidentally Wes Anderson

Kunsthistorisches Museum

Vienna, Austria | C.1891

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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The interiors of Vienna’s “Art History Museum” are stunning examples of the ornate Baroque architecture reflective of the period of time the works of art and artifacts were collected. The Museum is the largest in Austria and a stronghold for the Habsburg Empire’s renowned international acquisitions. They include collections from Egyptian & Near Eastern to Roman Antiquities to the Kunstkammer: the chamber of art and wonders from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque eras. Amongst the vast wealth of history on display are two rare Imperial pieces to note.

First: On the archway above you’ll see the engraving of Erzherzog (Archduke) Leopold Wilhelm of Austria – a fervent art collector of some 1,300 late Renaissance/Baroque paintings who commissioned a book which many historians refer to as the first “art catalogue”. Inside 243 Italian paintings were not just listed, but also engraved based on tiny models prepared beforehand. The Archduke’s collection now forms the heart of the Museum.

Second: Within the Kunstkammer is a small gold table – the only remaining work of precious metal attributed to sculptor Benvenuto Cellini called the Saliera. It allegorically portrays Land & Sea represented by a male figure on a ship holding the salt, and the earth he “fashioned like a woman” placing a temple close to her to serve as holder for pepper. The merely 26cm tall sculpture is so rare that in 2003, it was stolen from the Museum during renovations. Although the thief set off the alarm, they were ignored as false. The Museum offered a €1,000,000 reward and it was not until 3 years later that it was found buried in a lead box 90 km north of Vienna. The sculpture is insured at over $68 million. Now possession of that small treasure would make any common thief’s eyes go green with envy.

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