four museums in a day: Belvedere

My next stop was the Belvedere, another old palace converted into a gallery. It’s on a low hill, so there is a view over Vienna – as painted by Canaletto 250 years ago:


and how it looks now:


Again there were quite a few amazing things to see inside – here are just a few of them. First, there were some sculptures by somebody called Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, who was a famous sculptor at the court of Maria Theresa, about 250 years ago. He did a bust of the Empress, amongst many other important people. But then something happened in his mind, and he went off the rails and retired to the town he had come from. There he did a whole series of sculptures of grimacing heads, including these, which may have been of people undergoing medical treatment:









In complete contrast, there was also this huge propaganda painting by Jacques Louis David of Napoleon Crossing the Alps:


Apparently Napoleon really crossed the Alps on a donkey!

I thought the next one, from 1878, of a market in Cairo by Leopold Carl Mueller was interesting, because it shows that the story that painters (like the Impressionists) reacted to the invention of photography in the 1840s by beginning to create pictures that were less and less realistic, isn’t wholly true. To me this one looks almost like a National Geographic photo:


And then, in complete contrast, the Klimts, like this Garden with Sunflowers, from 1908:


and Judith, the mankiller, from 1901 (notice her victim’s head at the far bottom right):


The most famous one of all, The Kiss (1908), with its spectacular gold:


The museum information went on about how The Kiss is a perfect picture of bliss – but to me the woman doesn’t look quite happy, as though the man is crowding her somehow. I also thought it was wrong about The Bride, an unfinished one that he was working on when he died in 1918:


It is supposed to be about what the bride and groom are thinking of as they get married. She is worrying about a scary rival (the one in the right of the picture), while he is dreaming about all his old girlfriends and his fantasies about other women (the cloud of images coming out of his head). The commentary described him as being strong and self-confident, but I don’t think so: I think he looks complacent and a bit grim….

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