The Oxford historians' discovery of Vienna

Yearly Archives: 2017

Last Days of the Raphael Exhibition in Vienna

The exhibition of 130 drawings and 17 paintings by Raphael at the Albertina in Vienna is the result of the cooperation between the Albertina and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Most of the drawings were displayed at a hugely successful exhibition in Oxford over the past summer. You can see our review of the Oxford…
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The Dancing Congress: The Congress of Vienna in 1814

When Tsar Alexander I fainted during his stay in Vienna in 1814, the initial suspicion was that he had been poisoned. Later, it became clear that the Russian sovereign was suffering from extreme exhaustion as a result of excessive dancing. Alexander, immortalised in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, was the most influential voice at the Congress…
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A Rubens Exhibition in Vienna: The Master as Student

Between 17 October 2017 and 21 January 2018, the Art History Museum in Vienna (the Kunsthistorisches, henceforth KH) is running an exhibition on the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). [caption id="attachment_2736" align="alignleft" width="169"] Exhibition poster inside the museum.[/caption] The title of the show, The Power of Transformation, refers to the main aim of the…
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The Vienna Raphael Drawings in Oxford: The Ashmolean Museum Exhibition 2017

The great art event in Oxford this summer is undoubtedly the exhibition of Raphael’s drawings at the Ashmolean Museum (June - September 2017). The vast majority of the drawings come from the impressive collection of the Ashmolean itself and from the Albertina Museum in Vienna. The show has received enthusiastic reviews – it’s been described…
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The “Most Lovable Empire:” Recent Scholarship on the Habsburg Empire

Krishan Kumar’s new book, Visions of Empire: How Five Imperial Regimes Shaped the Modern World, (Princeton, 2017), looks at five empires: the Roman, the Ottoman, the Habsburg, the Russian/Soviet, and the French. What becomes clear at the very beginning is that Kumar’s approach is, by and large, a sympathetic one. The underlying understanding is that…
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Marie Antoinette: An Austrian Princess Becomes the Last Queen of France

There is some sense in which one cannot help but feel some sympathy with Marie Antoinette’s notorious remark about cake-eating. Of course, it is outrageous, when faced with hungry people demanding bread, to shrug your shoulders and recommend that they eat cake instead. This is even more so when you are, quite literally, carrying the…
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The “Used-to-be” Jews of Vienna in 1938

In one of Henry James’s novels, two elderly American ladies, who had spent most of their lives in Italy, describe themselves as “used-to-be Americans.” The expression is quite apt for a sense of identity that is complex, multilayered, and strongly founded on cultural belonging. While they were born in America, Henry James’s characters had lived…
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An Austrian Philosopher at Cambridge: Wittgenstein’s Tolstoyan Ethics

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, was born in Vienna in an extremely wealthy and highly cultured Jewish family. He spent part of his academic career in Cambridge, where he worked with the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. The result was a slim, but hugely influential book that Wittgenstein…
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A Schiele Exhibition at the Albertina, Vienna (22 February – 18 June 2017)

The rediscovery of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele (1890-1918) is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 1960s, it was still possible for the Burlington Magazine, one of the most highly respected art history journals, to describe Schiele’s paintings as “daubs on public lavatories.” Few nowadays would think of referring to Schiele’s works in such disparaging…
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The Putti in the Belvedere Palace Gardens in Vienna

The Belvedere Palace, the lavish summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, is one of the most impressive Baroque palaces in Europe. The Upper Belvedere is more spectacular and slightly later in date than the Lower Belvedere. The two complexes are connected by the gardens, an outstanding example of Baroque landscape architecture. The wide stairs…
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Fame But No Fortune? The Case of Mozart

One of the most die-hard elements of the Mozart myth is the notion that he died impoverished and was buried, on a stormy night, in an unknown, common grave. The motif of the beggars’ grave is certainly an invention. At the time, it was usual to bury all, but members of the aristocracy, in such…
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Hitler in Vienna: Learning from the Best

My friend Helmut once said that he was perfectly happy for people to think, as they often do, that Beethoven was Austrian, while Hitler was German. Helmut, as you can imagine, is Austrian. Indeed, Beethoven, who was born in Bonn, spent such a long time of his adult life in Vienna that one can understand…
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Prince Eugene of Savoy – the Debauched Boy Turned Military Hero

In 1682, King Louis XIV of France was approached by a short and unprepossessing-looking young man, who asked to be allowed to enlist in the French army. The young man was Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), who, as the fifth son of one of the important, aristocratic families in France had two careers open to…
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Empress Sisi: The Most Beautiful Royal in Europe

Strolling through the streets of central Vienna, there are two faces staring at you from cups, mugs, fridge magnets, chocolates, coffee-boxes, and all the rest of the tourist paraphernalia. One is Mozart, as can only be expected, the other one is the Empress Elizabeth (1837-1898), the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, affectionately known as Sisi.…
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The Sacher Café and Viennese High Society

Traditional coffee-culture was very much a bourgeois culture. Most Viennese coffee-houses catered for their usual clientele – middle-class, almost exclusively male, intellectual, and overwhelmingly Jewish (the last two often overlapped). In this sense, the café at the Sacher Hotel, founded in 1876, was a notable exception. It was at the Sacher that one could come…
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