The House of Habsburg was one of the wealthiest and most politically influential dynasties in Europe, and many of its members were also great collectors and patrons of the arts. Their love of magnificence in all its forms is reflected in the artistic quality and diversity of the objects in Vienna’s Kunstkammer, one of the most important collections of sculpture and decorative arts in the world and now part of the city’s Kunsthistorisches Museum.
In the Renaissance and Baroque periods, a Kunstkammer – or ‘chamber of art’ – was a place where the wonders of art, science and nature were brought together, a cabinet of curiosities in which spectacular products of nature were presented on equal footing with remarkable testimonies to human creativity.
This book features around a hundred and fifty of the masterpieces from the Habsburg collections, ranging from sublime works of sculpture and fine metalwork to exotic objects fashioned from ostrich eggs, nautilus shells, rhinoceros horns and shark’s teeth. Alongside the Saliera, Benvenuto Cellini’s famous golden salt cellar, and the masterful High Gothic sculpture known as the Krumau Madonna, are extraordinarily delicate works carved from ivory, gorgeous tapestries and mechanical marvels such as clocks and automata.
The emperors, princes and archdukes who shaped these collections wanted not only to create a sense of wonder in all who gazed upon them but also to symbolize their own dominion over the world. Filled with lavish photographs and fascinating insights, this is a worthy tribute to the Habsburgs and their lasting artistic legacy.