Prince Eugen, starting in 1697, in the Himmelpfortgasse in the walled city of Vienna by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach his city palace (now advertised for marketing reasons as a winter palace ) built. In 1702, Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt was commissioned by the client to complete the palace.
On 30 November 1697, one year after commencing with the construction of the Stadtpalais, Prince Eugene purchased a sizable plot of land south of the Rennweg, the main road to Hungary. Plans for the Belvedere garden complex were drawn up immediately. The prince chose Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt as the chief architect for this project rather than Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, the creator of his Stadtpalais. Hildebrandt (1668–1745), whom the general had met whilst engaged in a military campaign in Piedmont, had already built Ráckeve Palace for him in 1702 on Csepel, an island in the Danube south of Budapest. He later went on to build numerous other edifices in his service. The architect had studied civil engineering in Rome under Carlo Fontana and had gone into imperial service in 1695–96 in order to learn how to build fortifications. From 1696 onwards, records show that he was employed as a court architect in Vienna. As well as the Belvedere, Hildebrandt’s most outstanding achievements include the Schloss Hof Palace, which was also commissioned by Prince Eugene, the Schwarzenberg Palace (formerly known as the Mansfeld–Fondi Palace), the Kinsky Palace, as well as the entire Göttweig Monastery estate in the Wachau Valley.
At the time that the prince was planning to buy the land on the outskirts of Vienna for his Belvedere project, the area was completely undeveloped – an ideal place to construct a landscaped garden and summer palace. However, a month before the prince made his acquisition, the imperial Grand Marshal Count Heinrich Franz Mansfeld, Prince of Fondi, purchased the neighboring plot and commissioned Hildebrandt to build a garden palace on the land. To buy the plot, Prince Eugene was forced to take out a large loan secured against his Stadtpalais, which was still in the process of being built. He bought additional neighboring areas of land in 1708, 1716, and again in 1717–18 to allow him to expand the garden in stages.
Records indicate that the construction of the Lower Belvedere had started by 1712, as Prince Eugene submitted the request for a building inspection on 5 July 1713. Work proceeded swiftly, and Marcantonio Chiarini from Bologna started painting the quadratura in the central hall in 1715. The ambassador from the Spanish Flanders visited the Lower Belvedere, as well as the Stadtpalais, in April 1716. Extensive work was carried out on the grounds at the same time as construction went ahead on the Lustschloss, as the Lower Belvedere was described on an early cityscape. Dominique Girard changed the plans for the garden significantly between January and May 1717, so that it could be completed by the following summer. Girard, who was employed as fontainier du roi, or the king’s water engineer, in Versailles from 1707–15, had started working as a garden inspector for the Bavarian elector Maximilian Emanuel from 1715 onwards. It was on the latter’s recommendation that he entered Prince Eugene’s employ. The statuary for the balustrade is the best known work of Giovanni Stanetti.
Neighbor and “architect exchange”
The Winter Palace was only partly completed when Prince Eugene commissioned Hildebrandt in 1714 to build an additional garden palace for him outside the walled city. The prince had since 1697, bought directly next to one of his military-political opponent, Heinrich Franz von Mansfeld , a piece of land. Mansfeld had a palace built by Hildebrandt, whose shell was completed by 1704. Count Mansfeld, however, died in 1715 without completing his palace. Its area was expanded from 1716 to 1728 to palace and garden of the princely Schwarzenberg .
However, Prince Schwarzenberg did not continue to supervise this transformation or completion of Hildebrandt, who was now working for his neighbor Prince Eugen, but commissioned Eugens former contractor Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.
Summer residence of Prince Eugen
A 1694-1697 built pleasure building , which had acquired Prince Eugen with the property was rebuilt by Hildebrandt 1714-1716 to the Lower Belvedere. Prince Eugen used to stay here in the summer (construction details see below). After the death of the prince, the castle came from his heiress to the imperial family. In 1806, when Napoleon I threatened to invade Tyrol, the so-called Ambras Collection of the Habsburgs from Tyrol was placed in the Lower Belvedere; In 1890, this collection, together with other imperial art collections, was transferred to the then newly built Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien .
1903 began with the accommodation of the Modern Gallery , since 1909 Austrian State Gallery , the continuous museum use, which could be extended to the Upper Belvedere after the First World War. It is run by the Austrian Gallery Belvedere , a federal museum .
Prince Eugens last days and the lion in the Belvedere
Hugo von Hofmannsthal wrote:
“… the king of France, whom he had defeated so many times, worshiped him an African lion … finally came three days when the lion no longer saw his master, he refused all food and went restlessly in the cage up and down … at three o’clock in the morning he uttered such a roar that the animal keeper ran out into the menagerie to look. Then he saw lights in all the rooms of the castle, at the same time he heard the death-candle in the chapel, and so he knew that his master, the great Prince Eugen, had died at that very hour. ”
– Prince Eugen the noble knight, his life in pictures . Told by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Franz Wacik .
The so-called Lower Belvedere was completed in 1716. Only very few rooms were planned as living spaces, the largest place occupied the orangery and the pompous stable.
The Marble Hall (not to be confused with the so-called Prunksaal in the Upper Belvedere) is the center of the Lower Belvedere and originally served as a representative reception for guests. The original of the flour market fountain made of leaded walnut by Georg Raphael Donner can be seen here. (The fountain on today’s Neuer Markt , called Donnerbrunnen , consists of bronze casts.)
The ceiling painting by Martino Altomonte shows Prince Eugen as a youthful hero and as Apollo surrounded by muses. To the west is the master bedroom and to the east the boardroom . The ceiling painting of the parlor bedroom is also from Altomonte, (evening and morning) , with fake architecture by Marcantonio Chiarini and Gaetano Fanti . Grotesque paintings by Jonas Drentwett can be seen in a western room .
In 2007, the orangery (then Pomeranian building with sliding roof truss) was adapted and the Lower Belvedere rebuilt, where ever since special exhibitions of the Austrian Gallery Belvedere take place.