Vienna Media News 01/2015 VIDEO: 150 years of the Ringstrasse – Kunsthistorisches Museum and Museum of Natural History
Gottfried Semper and Carl von Hasenauer designed the Kunsthistorisches Museum in the Italian High Renaissance style as a palace of fine arts. Major artists of the day such as Hans Makart and Gustav Klimt were responsible for some of the decorative paintings on the walls and ceiling of the building which opened opposite the Hofburg in 1891. The works put on display in the Kunsthistorisches Museum since are a manifestation of the Habsburg archdukes’ and emperors’ far-sightedness and passion for collecting: artefacts include objects from ancient Egypt, antiquity, mediaeval times and the modern era. The museum is full of impressive sculptures, works by the greatest artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, the world’s largest Bruegel collection, masterpieces from the rarefied world that the Habsburgs and their contemporaries inhabited and much more besides. Thanks to this abundance of treasures the KHM is one of the world’s leading repositories of art.
The Picture Gallery is home to countless masterpieces of Western art, such as Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, The Artist’s Studio by Vermeer, the Infanta paintings by Velázquez and works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Titian and Tintoretto. Packed with items from the Habsburg’s centuries-old collection of arts and wonders, the glittering Kunstkammer reopened to the public in March 2013. One of the most important ‘cabinets of curiosities’ of all, the exhibition is packed with priceless artefacts from the Renaissance and Baroque periods including Benvenuto Cellini’s legendary Saliera salt cellar.
The KHM’s near identical twin is located directly opposite it on the other side of Maria-Theresien-Platz. Opened in 1889, the Museum of Natural history holds some 30 million items, making it one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. It whisks visitors away on a journey though the history of the planet and nature’s bounty. Whether it’s a look at the Venus of Willendorf, a guided tour of the 39 opulent exhibition halls, a special children’s tour or a rare opportunity to take in the rooftops of the historic old town below, the Museum of Natural History has no end of surprises in store for museumgoers of all ages.
In the Dinosaur Hall, the reconstructed skeletons and remains of the prehistoric giants are joined by a life-size Allosaurus, with realistic movement and a terrifying call. Meanwhile, in the Anthropology Halls, the focus is on the development of mankind. An innovative morphing station transforms visitors into prehistoric humans and lets them mail their “old face” to their friends. The Gemstone Hall dazzles visitors in every sense of the word – with a giant 117kg topaz and Maria Theresa’s jewel bouquet among the stand-out attractions. The Meteorite Hall is home to the world’s oldest and largest collection of meteorites with some 1,100 celestial fragments on show. Elsewhere a 3D simulator brings a meteor strike into sharp relief on a digital screen.
The imperial dedication “to the natural kingdom and its exploration” has been displayed prominently above the main entrance for 125 years, inspiring life inside and outside the museum ever since. Since life does not stand still even for a palace dedicated to the natural world, a new digital planetarium was unveiled to coincide with the anniversary. Full dome projection technology takes visitors on a scientifically-accurate digital tour of far-flung places such as the edges of the Milky Way and the Rings of Saturn.
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