The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna openend to the public in 1891. Gustav Klimt, his younger brother Ernst, and Franz Matsch executed forty paintings to decorate the spaces between the columns and above the arcades along the walls of the KHM’s main staircase. Personifications – either male and female, or female only – symbolize different stylistic periods, regions or centers of art. All paintings were executed in oil on canvas in the Artists’ studio; in 1891, six months before the formal opening of the museum, they were glued to the walls of the main staircase. With Wagnerian pathos the blonde Germania contemplates the crown of the Holy Roman Empire (Second half of the tenth century; KHM, Kunstkammer, Weltliche Schatzkammer, Inv. No. XIII 1). She wears the coronation gown (c. 1133/34, KHM, Kunstkammer, Inv. No. XIII 14) which is also preserved in the Schatzkammer. Both objects belong to the insignia of the Holy Roman Empire which Charlemagne founded in 800. This spandrel is located opposite the cupola hall. It thus forms a visual axis and iconographic counterpoint to the medallion of Franz Josef I found there, as well as to the Maria Theresia monument that dominates the plaza between the two museums. The pair of lovers in the right spandrel – a youth bearing a pomegranate and a young woman attired in Burgundian court dress – refers to the “youthful Maximilian, who wed the beautiful Mary”. Other references to Maximilian I are the emblems in the intercolumnar area: the double-headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the coats of arms of Maximilian’s parents below. Below to the right appears Amor, which is no doubt an allusion to the motto bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube (“May others make war, you happy Austria, marry”). For further Information on the building see: Cäcilia Bischoff, The Kunsthistorisches Museum. History, Architecture, Decoration, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Carolingian and Burgundian Periods
  • Creator: Franz Matsch
  • Date Created: 1891
  • Type: Interior decoration

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