A TASTE OF RUBENS AND THE PRINCELY RICHES OF THE LIECHTENSTEIN MUSEUM
It is almost a year ago that I visited Austria for the funky Vienna Festival and how funky it was! So I was looking forward very much to returning to see the new Liechtenstein Museum and of course immerse myself in the extraordinary ambience that is Vienna itself.
Some Day My Prince Will Come goes the hopeful line in the song, and for the cultural traveller it has, with the opening this spring of the refurbished Liechtenstein Museum by Hans Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein (that titchy country squashed between Austria and Switzerland). It had been closed since 1938 when the family transferred themselves and the collection to a castle in Vaduz, capital of Liechtenstein, because of the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.
Now the paying public has access to one of the most important private collections in the art world. The princely collections amounts to about 1,600 pictures including mouth watering masterpieces from Frans Hals (my very favourite works on show, please, please, please spend some time looking hard at them in the galleries on the upper floors) Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael, Brueghel, Van Dyck and other works ranging from the early Renaissance to Austrian Romanticism.
One of the first things that caught my eye was the radiance and pageantry of Prince Joseph Wenzel of Liechtenstein's 18th-century gold and red velvet state carriage. In 1738 Prince Joseph made his stately debut in it when he became ambassador to Paris. I wonder how many brave horses it took to maneuver the coach to the French court as it looks a tad awkward to handle and a bit weighty to me.
This is just the start of the enchantment in over 2,300 square meters of what was once the garden palace, or as the press release unequivocally says, "a world of pleasures, where all genres of art unfold their fascination as integral parts of a historical ensemble". One of the Baroque delights and a highlight of the museum must be the 600 square meter Hercules Hall with its immense ceiling fresco by Andrea Pozzo (1704-1708). It is the largest Baroque hall in Vienna and will also be used for concerts and other major events. As I gazed at its vastness it occurred to me that the entire programme of football matches in this summer's Euro 2004 could be played, all at once, under this one palatial roof!
What was the former Gentlemen's Apartment rooms, now houses a very splendid wood-panelled chock-a-block library that will also be used for chamber concerts, readings and exhibitions, and has the added bonus of being suitable to show pieces that are sensitive to light. To balance the sexes up, the Ladies' Apartment boasts Johann Michael Rottmayr's colourful frescoes and are, in case you wondered, being used for two special exhibitions this year, Neo-classic and Biedermeier.
The historic gardens ablaze with thousands of tulips, the spring day I visited, is a place to relax and reflect on the grand splendor of the exhibits or just go for a stroll. I had lunch at
Ruben's Palais, just by the museum's main entrance which was a truly marvellous culinary experience. A different wine was served with each quality course. Your arty correspondent was very happy to educate his palate on the subtleties of Austrian viniculture. My advice is, book ahead, don't miss this treat. It's not cheap but it is well worth the extra Euros. By the way Ruben's is named after the chef (Ruben Brunhart).
The arty voyager will leave the Liechtenstein Museum with a gleam in the eye, having luxuriated in the cultural life of Vienna and seen some of the finest and most aristocratic paintings, sculptures, furniture and architecture in Europe in their very, very own summer retreat.
NEED TO KNOW
The Liechtenstein Museum. The Princely Collections
Furstengasse 11090 Vienna, Austria.
Tel: 0043 1 319 57670
Opening Hours. Daily (except Tuesday) 9am-8pm
Tickets: Adults 10 Euros; Family tickets and concessions available.
Ruben's Palais (Ruben's Brasserie)
A-1090 Wien Furstengasse
Tel: 0043 1 319 2396.
Austrian Airlines (0870 1242625. www.austrianairlines.co.uk) flies from Heathrow to Vienna daily, and has some good deals if booked well in advance.
Austrian Tourist Board -tel: 020 7629 0461, www.austria.info/uk
Vienna Tourist Board - www.info.wien.at
Vienna Festival - www.festwochen.at
Albertina - www.albertina.at
This large exhibition will together Rembrandt’s paintings, drawings and etchings.
The Vienna card is a convenient travel and entertainment card costs 16.90 Euros. It is valid for 72 hours and gives unlimited travel on the underground, bus and tram networks, as well as discounts at over 180 tourist attractions. The card is on sale at the Tourist information centre, most hotels and Vienna Transport central ticket offices.
WHERE TO STAY
Petersplatz 9 A-1010 Wien
Tel: 0043 1 534 550
Arts and delights in Vienna, in association with the Vienna tourist board. A special series of summer visits with a specialist guide .Featuring a tour of the Liechtenstein Museum and a light lunch at the Rubens Brasserie. Also on offer an off the beaten track walking trip of old Vienna, evening concert with the music of Strauss and Mozart, plus applestrudel tastings!
The price: Four nights from £445, including air travel, 4-star accommodation, Vienna card etc.
Contact: Voyages Jules Verne - Tel: 0845 166 7000 or www.vjv.com
STOP PRESS - ARTY LONDON SUMMER!
The fabulous St Judes Proms, in London's Hampstead Garden Suburb, is on again from - June 12 to June 20 - for their Glorious 12th year!
Last summer I reviewed the spirited performance of the London Community Gospel Choir, whose uplifting singing I highly recommend, and am delighted to report will be back again in full voice on Friday the 18th.
This year's Proms has, as ever, a wide ranging programme of music every evening and lunchtime. Tickets for evening performances are £8-£14 and selling like hot cakes - so book now!
Lunchtime concerts are free! For programme details and tickets see www.stjudes.org.uk