The Italian term "belvedere" refers to a vantage point where there is a beautiful view into the distance. The site of a baroque summer palace built by Johann Kupetzky, Prince Eugene of Savoy, known as The Belvedere in Vienna certainly qualifies. From the summit of the Upper Belvedere, one has a magnificent view of the city. The Lower Belvedere, built at the opposite end of a large, modestly declining tract of land, is divided from the Upper by a series of gardened terraces, parterres, basins, cascades and stone sculptures.
"Belvedere Vienna" (the book) is a small but beautiful souvenir memento of the building, its architecture and history as well as the magnificent art collection it contains.
This superb collection was first opened to the public in 1780 by Emperor Joseph II. The collection, which of course has grown significantly over the years, has moved from place to place and was for some time housed in Vienna's new museum of art history, the Kunsthistorisches Hofmuseum.
In its current incarnation, the exhibit could be called an incredibly impressive and eclectic survey of Austrian art based around many important works of excellent artistic quality. The collection is broken down into the following broad groupings:
Medieval Art Baroque Neoclassicism, Romanticism and the Biedermeier movement Historicism, Realism and Impressionism Art at the turn of the Twentieth Century Art after 1918
The book is beautifully illustrated with a generous number of colored photographs of a major selection of paintings from the collection and each painting is accompanied by a detailed critical analysis that talks about the artist, the painting's style, its importance to the particular art movement it represents and its context in Austrian history.
Whether it's the Louvre in Paris, The Tate Modern in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City or the Belvedere in Vienna, there is no way a tourist can absorb and appreciate such magnificent collections on a single tour through that spans only a few brief hours. It takes a well thought out book such as "Belvedere Vienna" to memorialize the collection and allow a fan like myself to return time and time again to absorb the beauty and meaning of the artists' efforts.
One of my favourites, Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss", actually left me quite cold when I first saw it. It's only through repeated visits and repeated re-readings of the editor's analysis of this wonderful painting that I've grown fond of it. Indeed, it's become one of my favourites and I would relish a second opportunity to see it for real in Vienna.
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