The Great Gallery is the heart of the castle building, mainly used for festive receptions, balls and as a boardroom. The room has high windows to the garden with opposite crystal mirrors. The white walls are decorated with gilded Rococo stucco, the ceiling covered with three large paintings. Over 60 gilded sconces and two heavy chandeliers originally donated candles to light.
The interiors of the castle not only served as the residence of the imperial family, but were also built for representation purposes and were the scene of countless celebrations and ceremonies that symbolized and strengthened the prestige of the monarchy. For this purpose, many well-known artists and renowned craftsmen were appointed, who furnished the rooms with the highest elegance of the time. The styles range from the Baroque to the Rococo, the Biedermeier and styles of the Wilhelminian era, which, however, on the whole form a harmonious ensemble.
With a length of over 40 meters and a width of almost ten meters, the Great Gallery was the ideal setting for courtly events. It has been used since the mid-18th century for balls, receptions and as a boardroom.
The high windows and the opposite crystal mirrors , the white-gold stucco decoration and the ceiling frescoes form a total work of art in themselves, creating one of the most magnificent Rococo ballrooms.
The ceiling frescoes of the Italian painter Gregorio Guglielmi in the middle fresco show the well-being of the monarchy under the
rule of Maria Theresa. In the middle stand Franz Stephan and Maria Theresa, surrounded by the personified rulers virtues. Around this central group are allegories of the crown lands with their respective riches arranged. The western ceiling fresco depicts the prosperity of the crown lands, while the eastern one, a copy of the original destroyed by a bomb in World War II, shows a military allegory.
The electrical installation of the mighty and exceedingly sumptuous gilded wooden chandeliers and the sconces took place in 1901, the candles of the chandeliers and wall appliqués were equipped with light bulbs. It also added the upper wall sconce for increased lighting and illuminated the Great Gallery with a total of 1104 light bulbs .
As part of the last comprehensive refurbishment of the Great Gallery in 2011/2012, an innovative lighting system, which comes as close as possible to the impression of candlelight with a contemporary lighting solution , installed: For the first time candle-shaped LED lights are used, which imitate flickering candlelight with their integrated crystals.
Since the founding of the Republic, the Great Gallery has been used for concerts and receptions . In 1961, the legendary meeting between US President John F. Kennedy and Russian President Nikita Khrushchev took place.
The Small Gallery, which was built at the same time as the Grand Gallery, was used by Maria Theresa for family celebrations in a smaller circle.
During the 1999/2000 restoration, the exposed wall surface exposures revealed the stucco trim of the first mariatheresian equipment from the mid-1740s, which nearly ten years later had to give way to today’s polished white frame with richly gilded rocca finish. In the course of this second equipment, which coincided with the redesign of the Great Gallery , the ceiling fresco by Gregorio Guglielmi was also executed.
In order to convey a historically authentic spatial impression, the sconces, as in many other rooms on the Beletage, were
equipped with special light bulbs that suggest candlelight.
In the evening, the Small Gallery also offers space for larger groups or concerts .
The carousel room
The carousel room served as an antecamera in front of the imperial apartments of Maria Theresa Franz I. Stephans of Lorraine in the east wing.
One of the two wall-fixed paintings gave this room its name, namely the women’s carousel , which Maria Theresa organized in the Riding School in 1743 to celebrate the withdrawal of the French and Bavarians from Bohemia and thus the end of the first Silesian War . The painting of the awarding of the Saint Stephen Order, a medal awarded for civil merit, documents the first award ceremony on the occasion of its foundation as another important event during the reign of Maria Theresia.
The lantern room
In the lantern room – with the marble door panels from the time of Joseph I – before the electrification of the castle around 1900, the lantern bearers stopped to show the way in the dark, if necessary, the imperial rule and the court.
The Chinese Cabinets
The two cabinets were furnished around 1755/60 with precious objects from East Asia and bear witness to the beginning of the early 18th century penchant and admiration for Far Eastern lacquerware, silk wallpaper and porcelain from China and Japan, which increasingly shaped the princely home decor in Europe ,
Maria Theresa also loved chinoiserie, which found its way into several rooms in Schönbrunn. The Chinese Cabinets (also Ostasienkabinette) have a white wall paneling with rich gilded rocailles. Between the mirrors are precious Chinese lacquer panels of various sizes and shapes, painted with architecture, landscapes and genre scenes. From the gilded frames grow, so to speak, small consoles on which stand figures, vases and other porcelain vessels whose origin can be clearly determined from China and Japan as well as European provenance.
The fire-gilded Rococo candlesticks with candle cups and spouts made of enamel, as well as the precious floors made of various exotic and native woods in a very sophisticated marquetry version, are also worthy of note.
Both rooms served Maria Theresia as a conference and playroom , while the Chinese Round Cabinet also held secret
conferences and meetings with her state chancellor, Prince Kaunitz. Prince Kaunitz, who had an apartment in the upper floor, was able to get directly into the cabinet via the ” Kaunitzstiege ” lying behind the round cabinet.
Further interesting literature:
Krist, Gabriela / Iby, Elfriede (editors). Investigation and Conservation of East Asian Cabinets at Imperial Residences (1700 – 1900). Lacquerware and Porcelain. Converence 2013 Postprints. Vienna-Cologne-Weimar 2015
Schönbrunn Palace (German: Schloss Schönbrunn) is a former imperial summer residence located in Vienna, Austria. The 1,441-room Baroque palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in the country. Since the mid-1950s it has been a major tourist attraction. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.
In 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased a large floodplain of the Wien river beneath a hill, situated between Meidling and Hietzing, where a former owner, in 1548, had erected a mansion called Katterburg. The emperor ordered the area to be fenced and put game there such as pheasants, ducks, deer and boar, in order for it to serve as the court’s recreational hunting ground. In a small separate part of the area, “exotic” birds such as turkeys and peafowl were kept. Fishponds were also built.
The name Schönbrunn (meaning “beautiful spring”), has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court.
During the next century, the area was used as a hunting and recreation ground. Eleonora Gonzaga, who loved hunting, spent much time there and was bequeathed the area as her widow’s residence after the death of her husband, Ferdinand II. From 1638 to 1643, she added a palace to the Katterburg mansion, while in 1642 came the first mention of the name “Schönbrunn” on an invoice. The origins of the Schönbrunn orangery seem to go back to Eleonora Gonzaga as well. The Schönbrunn Palace in its present form was built and remodelled during the 1740–50s during the reign of empress Maria Theresa who received the estate as a wedding gift. Franz I commissioned the redecoration of the palace exterior in the neoclassical style as it appears today.
Franz Joseph, the longest-reigning emperor of Austria, was born at Schönbrunn and spent a great deal of his life there. He died there, at the age of 86, on 21 November 1916. Following the downfall of the Habsburg monarchy in November 1918, the palace became the property of the newly founded Austrian Republic and was preserved as a museum.
After World War II and during the Allied Occupation of Austria (1945—55), Schönbrunn Palace was requisitioned to provide offices for both the British Delegation to the Allied Commission for Austria, and for the headquarters for the small British Military Garrison present in Vienna. With the reestablishment of the Austrian republic in 1955, the palace once again became a museum. It is still sometimes used for important events such as the meeting between U.S. president John F. Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1961.
Since 1992 the palace and gardens have been owned and administered by the Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur-und Betriebsges.m.b.H., a limited-liability company wholly owned by the Republic of Austria. The company conducts preservation and restoration of all palace properties without state subsidies. UNESCO catalogued Schönbrunn Palace on the World Heritage List in 1996, together with its gardens, as a remarkable Baroque ensemble and example of synthesis of the arts (Gesamtkunstwerk).