Fredrikson Stallard and Heinitz von Heinzenthal

20 Sep 2016 — 20 Jun 2017 at the Upper Belvedere Museum in Vienna, Austria

Fredrikson Stallard and Heinitz von Heinzenthal. Courtesy of Upper Belvedere Museum
Fredrikson Stallard and Heinitz von Heinzenthal. Courtesy of Upper Belvedere Museum
11 APR 2017

In the Upper Belvedere’s Marble Hall, two Baroque paintings from the time of Prince Eugene are currently being restored. In their place, the two-part installation Hurricane by the British designer duo Fredrikson Stallard is on show between 30 September 2016 and June 2017. In this dialogue between Baroque and contemporary art, gold plays a key role. It is not only the dominant element in the palace’s architecture but also a defining trait of both the contemporary installation and masterpieces from the Belvedere’s collection.

From 30 September 2016 to June 2017, Fredrikson Stallard are presenting an installation commissioned by Swarovski in the Marble Hall at the Upper Belvedere. Hurricane comprises two golden mirrors made of crumpled, mirror-polished aluminium. Both works were hand formed by the artists. The mirrors’ surfaces reflect the light shining into the building back into the room, while abstract reflections of the two-storey Marble Hall appear within the installations themselves. The golden metal echoes the aesthetics of the magnificent interior and the exhibited artworks. It makes a special allusion to the works by Gustav Klimt, their golden elements harmonizing with the installation’s reflections. The installations occupy the space of two oil paintings by Ignaz Heinitz von Heinzenthal dating from 1723. Swarovski is supporting the restoration of these paintings.

In such a grand setting as the Upper Belvedere’s Marble Hall, the two animal paintings by the Viennese artist Ignaz Heinitz von Heinzenthal (1657–1742) at first glance seem a little out of place. But their prominent display can be explained by the personality of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736). The successful general and diplomat was not only a passionate art collector but also cherished flora and fauna. In the Belvedere gardens he cultivated rare plants and established a menagerie boasting a wide variety of species. All too aware of the transient nature of these parts of his collection, Prince Eugene commissioned the painter Heinitz to document his animals and plants in paintings. Thus, one painting in the Marble Hall shows a pair of ostriches, the other a hyena, an antelope, and a southern cassowary. Exotic plants, including a banana plant and a blooming aloe, were added to both arrangements. Prince Eugene sought to immortalize animals and plants from his gardens in the Marble Hall, an ambiance usually reserved for glorifying the family dynasty, for example in ancestral portraits.

After the Imperial Picture Gallery was transferred from the Stallburg to the Upper Belvedere in 1776, the animal paintings finally had to be moved as well. They were replaced by Anton von Maron’s portraits of the Regent Maria Theresa in widow’s weeds and her son Emperor Joseph II (painted in the 1790s, today at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). The dimensions of both paintings were adapted to fit their new setting. Following the opening of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, alterations were made to the Upper Belvedere to create a grand residence for the heir to the imperial throne Franz Ferdinand and, as part of this, these two paintings were also removed and replaced by mirrors. Decades passed before the two works by Heinitz were rediscovered in the stores at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, finally being returned to the location for which they were originally intended in 1963.