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