You may wish to see a section on 1750 Vienna seen by an Italian traveller first.
Kunsthistorisches Museum: 1760 Vienna seen from the Upper Belvedere by Bernardo Bellotto with Karlskirche to the far left, Schhwarzenberg Palace in the centre and Salesianerinnenkirche to the far right
The Belvedere Palace in the suburb Rennweg was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy who resided in it during the latter years of his life. It consists of two buildings, the Upper and Lower Belvedere, situated at the foot and at the summit of a gentle eminence, the intervening slope being occupied by a fine public garden. (..) The garden of the Belvedere commands one of the best views of Vienna.
A Handbook for travellers in southern Germany by J. Murray - 1837
Belvedere (fair view) is a term which was first used for a Renaissance villa in Rome and then adopted for other buildings having a commanding view over an urban or countryside landscape, e.g. at Prague and Florence.
(left) Upper Belvedere: Portrait of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), as military commander, with the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the highest chivalry order of the House of Habsburg, his helmet presented to him by a young moor, by Johann Gottfried Auerbach (ca 1728); (right) Lower Belvedere: Apotheosis of Eugene by Balthasar Permoser (1721); the Prince and the figures of Fame and of a fallen Turk were portrayed in a very "Berninian" way which did not satisfy Eugene who installed it in the officers' mess
Without Suspicion of Adulation one may safely prefer Prince Eugene to most of the great Men of Greece and Rome, and we may do it too, without despoiling them of their Virtues. There is no absolute Necessity of comparing his Serene Highness with either Alexander or Casar, but if such a Comparison be to be made, we need not stile Alexander a Robber, or Caesar a Parricide, in order to magnify our Hero. Prince Eugene was equal to them in their most shining qualities; he had all the Intrepidity of the Macedonian and all the Clemency of the Roman. (..) It may be said that Alexander and Caesar were not barely Heroes, but Statesmen nay and Scholars too, laying Claim not only to the Laurel, but to the Myrtle Wreath. (..) Prince Eugene was a Statesman and a Scholar as well as they, and if the Troubles of Europe had not intervened, would in all probability have rose as high through his Love of Arts, as he did by his Skill in Arms.
The Military History of the Late Prince Eugene of Savoy - 1737 English translation of a book by Jean Dumont and Jean Rousset de Missy
Upper Belvedere - Bedchamber: Judgement of Paris
It is a great Misfortune to us that the Plan of a Military History forbids our Researches into his private Life, otherwise new and fuller Subjects of Panegyrick had appeared; for it was the peculiar Happiness of this Illustrious Person that there was no Hour of his Life undedicated to his Glory, because in no Hour of his Life he failed in his Duty. Military History
Because Prince Eugene never married, nor was he known for his mistresses, modern historians have speculated on his private life and maybe they have looked with interest at the decoration of his bedchamber where the beauty of Paris gets more evidence than that of the goddesses, contrary to the usual ancient and modern iconography.
Prince Eugene of Savoy acquired fame and wealth through his participation in the long series of campaigns against the Ottomans which followed the 1683 Siege of Vienna and which ended in 1699 with the Peace of Carlowitz; its outcome was decided in 1697 at Zenta, in today's Northern Serbia, where Prince Eugene routed the Ottomans in a surprise attack. Upon his return to Vienna he commissioned Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach the design of a large town palace. The Prince was then involved in the campaigns of the Spanish Succession War (1701-1714) and in 1712, when the war was coming to an end, or rather to a stalemate, he decided to build a large summer residence outside the walls of Vienna and he commissioned it to Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. You can see the exterior of the Lower Belvedere, the first palace of the villa, in a page on the XVIIIth century countryside palaces of Vienna.
Lower Belvedere: (left) Great Hall; (right) detail of its stucco decoration portraying Venus and Mars and a shield with the Roman she-wolf and the twins (you may wish to see its illusionistic ceiling, where the Prince is portrayed with Apollo, rather than with Mars)
At the death of Prince Eugene in 1736, the villa was inherited by a niece who in 1752 sold it to Empress Maria Theresa. In 1776 the Empress and her son Joseph II decided to relocate the imperial collections to the Lower and Upper Belvedere, where they remained until 1881 when they were moved to the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
The Lower Belvedere contains the Ambras Collection of antient armour, paintings and jewels, so named from the Castle of Ambras in Tyrol where it was originally placed. (..) The Hall is occupied by a Collection of Antique Sculpture recently removed from the Imperial Palace. The best things among them are the Sarcophagus of the Fugger family with bas reliefs of the battle of the Amazons (from Cyprus) and a bronze statue of Hermes. Murray
Today the Great Hall houses the original statues of Donnerbrunnen.
The VIth Room contains a dazzling display of jewellery, trinkets, cups cut out of precious stones, carvings, plate of costly workmanship, and enamels. At the head of its curiosities stands the celebrated saltcellar made by Benvenuto Cellini for Francis I whose arms and initial it still bears; an undoubted work of the artist who has thus described it in his life: "I had represented the sea and the earth both in a sitting posture, the legs of one placed between those of the other as certain arms of the sea enter the land and certain necks of land jut out into the sea. The manner in which I designed them was as follows: I put a trident into the right hand of the figure that represented the sea and in the left a bark of exquisite workmanship which was to hold the salt: under this figure were its four sea horses the form of which in the breast and fore feet resembled that of a horse and all the hind part from the middle that of a fish. The fishes tails were entwined with each other in a manner very pleasing to the eye and the whole group was placed in a striking attitude. This figure was surrounded by a variety of fishes of different species and other sea animals. The undulation of the water was properly exhibited and likewise enamelled with its true colours. The earth I represented by a beautiful female figure holding a cornucopia in her hand entirely naked like the other male figure: in her left hand she held a little temple the architecture of the Ionic order and the workmanship very nice this was intended to put the pepper in. Under this female figure I exhibited most of the finest animals which the earth produces; and the rocks I partly enamelled and partly left in gold. I then fixed the work on a base of black ebony of a proper thickness and there I placed four golden figures in more than mezzo rilievo these were intended to represent Night and Day and there was one likewise for Evening and another for the Morning. (..) When I showed the King this piece of work he burst into an exclamation of surprise and could never sufficiently admire it." Murray
In 1570 the salt cellar was presented by King Charles IX of France to Ferdinand Archduke of Tirol, brother of Emperor Ferdinand I, and the founder of the Ambras Collection.
Lower Belvedere - Grotesque Hall: (left) wall; (right) ceiling
The Countess of Soissons, our Hero's Mother, fell under the Displeasure of Lewis the XIVth by whom she was passionately beloved (..) for being a Party concerned in a Court Intrigue. (..) This was the real Cause of that Distaste which our young Prince took to France tho' the Place of his Nativity. Lewis the XIVth however took Care of his Education, which was in all Respects suitable to his high Birth and Character; his Father likewise before his Decease had obtained for him an Abbey of considerable Value with the Prospect of advancing him in the Church, and procuring for him a Cardinal's Cap, for it must be considered that he was the youngest of five Princes, whom the Count de Soissons had by his illustrious Consort. Our young Hero however had no Taste for the idle and indolent Life, either of an Abbot or a Cardinal; he was born for more active and laborious Employments; in short his Genius led him entirely to the Study and Practice of the Art of War. Military History
Unlike other men of war, Eugene of Savoy received a classical education which shows up in the elaborate decoration of his palaces. The Belvedere was the summer residence where he entertained his guests and therefore its walls and ceilings were painted with light subjects, similar to what occurred in many Italian countryside palaces, e.g. at Palazzo Farnese di Caprarola.
The Imperial Picture Gallery in the Upper Belvedere is at the farther end of the gardens. The terrace in front commands one of the most pleasing views of Vienna. Murray
The Lower Belvedere was completed in 1716 and in the following year the construction of the Upper Belvedere began. The interior decoration and the furnishings of the Prince's city palace and of the Lower Belvedere were supervised by Claude le Fort du Plessy, a French architect, who is likely to have had an influence on Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt in the design of the Upper Belvedere, which has a distinct French appearance.
Upper Belvedere - Sala Terrena (Ground Floor Hall) and detail of one of the four atlantes by Giovanni Giuliani which were added in 1732 to better support the overlying Marble Hall
The purpose of the Upper Belvedere was to house grand receptions which would show the status of Prince Eugene who had triumphed in the 1716-1718 war against the Ottomans. He was appointed governor of the Austrian Netherlands, but he preferred to remain in Vienna and rule that country through a vicar. The Upper Belvedere could be accessed also from its southern side, but it is likely that the most important guests entered the premises from an archway near the Lower Belvedere, crossed the gardens in their carriages and alighted in front of Sala Terrena which was fully open on that side (it was closed at the end of the XVIIIth century); from there a grand staircase led them to the main hall.
Upper Belvedere - Marble Hall
The main hall was faced with reddish-brown marble, after which it is named. The Upper Belvedere was damaged during WWII and by a fire in 1950, but the Marble Hall was less affected than other parts of the building. On May 15, 1955 the "Treaty for the re-establishment of an independent and democratic Austria" was signed in this hall by representatives of the occupying powers and of the Austrian government.
The prestige of Prince Eugene as a military commander was such that he did not need to remind it to his guests, perhaps as a scorn to King Louis XIV who rejected a plan to decorate the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles with the deeds of Apollo in favour of one depicting his military victories.
Upper Belvedere - Ceiling depicting the Triumph of Aurora (1722) in a hall in the ground floor which is now known as Carlone Hall
Carlo Innocenzo Carlone (1687-1775) began his career as a painter in minor Austrian towns. His first important commission was at the Belvedere and it gave him great fame. In 1750 he was asked to work at the decoration of the main hall of Augustusburg, the palace of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne. His ceilings were framed by fake architectures by Marcantonio Chiarini and Gaetano Fanti, two Italian painters who specialized in quadratura, an illusionistic technique based on perspective laws (see a very fine example of quadratura by Andrea Pozzo at S. Ignazio).
Upper Belvedere: (left) hall decorated with Aeneas' Deeds and housing a collection of medieval statues; (right) Aeneas and Anchises, a subject which was depicted also in the Prince's city palace and eventually in other buildings; the image used as background for this page shows a monkey which is painted in this room
Today the Upper Belvedere is the most visited art museum of Vienna because it houses paintings by Gustav Klimt and other modern artists in halls which are always very crowded. Less attention is paid to a collection of medieval art in some of the best decorated parts of the building.
The gardens were designed by Dominique Girard, a pupil of André Le Nôtre, who created those at Versailles. At the time Girard was working at the Great Waterfall of Nymphenburg, but he was "loaned" to Prince Eugene by Bavarian Elector Maximilian Emanuel. Girard was also involved in the design of the gardens of Augustusburg. You may wish to see some other statues of the gardens.
Waterfall Fountain in the Gardens