All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Vienna seen by an Italian XVIIIth century traveller - XVIIIth century palaces
Most of the palaces built in the XVIIIth century in the old town replaced previous medieval dwellings without enlarging the street, so that it is very difficult to appreciate them in their entirety: so their portal is usually the most important element from an architectonical viewpoint.
When compared to contemporary Roman portals, they show a wider entrance, a sign that they were designed to allow the passage of carriages too.
This large palace was designed in 1708-14 by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, a major architect of that period. He had a Roman background which shows up in the lion skin on the main portal, a quotation after a similar relief in Palazzo Madama (it is the image used as a background for this page).
The building was enlarged by Mathias Gerl in 1750 and one can notice the change in style in his design of the rear portal: it shows a certain frivolity, with the left atlas who does not care to fulfil his supporting role, but looks upwards as if to see what is going on.
Kinsky Palace is a joyous palace regarded as the masterpiece of Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. He was born in Genoa in 1668 of German parents, his father serving as a captain in that republic army. He studied military and city architecture in Rome under Carlo Fontana. He joined as an engineer the Imperial Army during a campaign in Piedmont, where he knew the Imperial Commander, Prince Eugene of Savoy: "Gian Luca" as he was usually called, followed his boss in Vienna, where he was initially regarded as yet another Italian architect.
Palace Kinsky was influenced by Gian Lorenzo Bernini's design of Palazzo Chigi, before it was modified by the Odescalchi. It gains a lot from being located on the Freyung, one of the largest squares of Vienna.
Bernini's Palazzo Chigi influenced also Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach when he was asked to design the city palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Johann Bernhard Fischer was born near Graz in 1656, the son of a sculptor. He was sent to Rome to learn the art at the workshop of Philipp Schorr, who was a leading decorative sculptor of his time. In Rome, Fischer's cultural perspective widened to include architecture. He may have got in touch with people who worked in the studio of Bernini.
Unfortunately the street is too narrow for a proper view of the palace fašade. The reliefs decorating the portals portray the Prince, who had contributed to the greatness of the empire by defeating the Ottomans at Zenta (1697) and Petervaradino (1716) and the French at Blenheim (1704) and Turin (1706). He is shown both as modern commander and as an ancient Roman leader, as if Vienna Gloriosa was the heir of Alma Roma.
It is not easy to understand the role in society of a Baroque architect and the degree of initiative he had. His position oscillated between that of a servant of princes, just above the general status of servant and that of a recognized general contractor who was in charge of also coordinating the activity of sculptors and painters.
For sure he was unable to refuse any task, however insignificant, which his princely clients might impose upon him, including those which had nothing to do with designing buildings.
This explains why often we know little about the architects who designed the fine portals shown above and below, which show at the same time the adherence to an overall pattern and those slight variances which make them unique.
In the XVIIIth century the growth of Vienna was not limited to the many palaces built within the walls, but included many villas in its immediate outskirts: these are covered in a separate page.
Pages in this section of the website in recommended order:
Introduction: the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations
The 1683 Siege of Vienna
XVIIth century churches
XVIIth century palaces
Monuments celebrating the end of plagues
The walls of Vienna
XVIIIth century churches
XVIIIth century palaces
Italian sculpture and sculptors
A political manifesto: Karlskirche
Churches without the walls
Palaces and Villas without the walls
A day in the countryside: Perchtoldsdorf