Emperor Charles VI and Gundacker, Count Althann

Francesco Solimena1728

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

In early 1728, Francesco Solimena, who dominated Neapolitan painting in the first half of the 18th century and was successful at other courts as well, was commissioned to create this painting. Influenced by Luca Giordano in his early works, Solimena ultimately developed a highly individual style, characterised by dramatic and rapid changes of light and colour. Gundacker Ludwig, Count Althann had been Director of Imperial Buildings since 1716 and was involved with Fischer von Erlach in the projects to expand Vienna’s Hofburg Palace. In 1726 he was appointed Chief Inspector of the Imperial Academy of Painting and Sculpture. During his administration, a three-volume inventory with 120 copperplate engravings was drawn up of the Imperial Painting Gallery in Vienna’s Stallburg (Anton J. von Prenner, Theatrumartis pictoriae: in quo Tabulae depictae quae in Caesarea Vindobonensi Pinacotheca servantur leviore caelatura aeri insculptae exhibentur, Viennae Austriae 1728). Fama, the personification of earthly fame, accompanies the solemn presentation of the inventory to Charles VI in this perfect example of a late Baroque tribute to a ruler. However, the form in which Solimena originally delivered the large-format work in April 1728 was apparently not completely in keeping with the court’s ideal of ostentation. In Vienna, Johann Gottfried Auerbach replaced the faces of the protagonists, who had originally been turned towards one another with emotion, with the portraits seen here, which gazestiffly from the picture, thus creating distance to the scene and to reality.
© Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Emperor Charles VI and Gundacker, Count Althann
  • Creator: Francesco Solimena
  • Creator Lifespan: 1657/1747
  • Creator Nationality: italian
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Barra near Naples
  • Creator Birth Place: Canale di Serino
  • Date Created: 1728
  • Style: Italian Baroque
  • Provenance: in the Gallery since 1728
  • Physical Dimensions: w2840 x h3090 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 1601
  • Artist Biography: Francesco Solimena settled in Naples in 1674 and became the unchallenged head of the Neapolitan school of painting during the first half of the 1700s. He modeled his painting on the exuberant Baroque style of his predecessor, Luca Giordano, modified by the classical tendencies of Roman decorator Pietro da Cortona. The brownish shadows that are such an identifiable element of Solimena's style are indebted to Giovanni Lanfranco and Mattia Preti. Flickering patterning of light and shade, clarity of line, and theatricality are equally characteristic of Solimena's art. Despite a first impression of a Baroque compositional free-for-all, with people in all manner of activity and poses, Solimena's figure style was actually very conventional. His figures often derived from classicizing masters of the past such as Annibale Carracci, Domenichino, and Raphael. Despite working his whole life in Naples, Solimena became one of the most influential artists in Europe. He acquired great wealth, lived in a palace, became a baron, and was in constant demand by royal patrons, including Prince Eugene of Savoy and Louis XIV of France. Solimena established his own academy, which became the center of Neapolitan artistic life, and trained innumerable young painters. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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