Winter Palace of Prince Eugene, Belvedere

The Winter Palace (City Palace) of Prince Eugene of Savoy is an important high-baroque palace in Vienna’s Inner City (1st district), Himmelpfortgasse 8. It served the general chiefly as a winter residence, while spending the summers in Belvedere Palace.

The historic rooms in the Beletage were the seat of the Ministry of Finance from 1848 until the general renovation of the city palace begun in 2007. In the course of this work, the state rooms were restored true to the original and presented themselves in Baroque opulence designed for Prince Eugen. In the autumn of 2013, the ministry temporarily transferred the state rooms formerly used by the state as a federal museum to the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, which, starting with the prince’s 350th birthday, used the palace as a further location for his art collection and for special exhibitions and made it accessible to the public. The Ministry of Finance has returned the premises for their own use at the end of October 2017 as requested. In 2018, during the EU Council Presidency of Austria, the Palais will be the venue for the Brexit negotiations.

Historical function
The city or winter palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy in today’s (until 1857 walled) old town of Vienna was the main residence of the successful general. Here were the largest parts of the famous collections of the master of the house, including the exceptionally extensive library.

The city palace served above all also representative purposes. Prince Eugen exercised high-ranking functions of the Habsburg monarchy, among other things he was 1703-1736 president of the Hofkriegsrates and 1714-1724 formally governor of the Austrian Netherlands. Therefore, he had to give appropriate receptions and audiences.

In terms of town planning, the palace is a special feature, as Prince Eugen chose not a befitting building site for his residence – such as the Hofburg, which was even closer to Herrengasse – but the narrow, less spectacular Himmelpfortgasse. After his arrival in Vienna, the successful general did not have his own apartment and lived in the home of the then Spanish Ambassador.

From autumn 2013 to October 2017, the state rooms of the building under the name Winterpalais were part of the Austrian Gallery Belvedere.

In 1693 and 1694 the first land purchases are documented; Several older houses as well as an early Baroque theater hall were included in the area. In 1697, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach began building a seven-axle palace on behalf of Prince Eugen; his construction manager was Andrea Simone Carove. The stonemason commission was awarded to Johann Thomas Schilck, with family contacts both to Eggenburg and Kaisersteinbruch. Due to planned marriages, these two stonemason centers near Vienna had secured their business. Thus, these two types of stone determine the palace.

The large portal with the lateral reliefs (left: Hercules in the fight against the giant Antaeus, right: Aeneas rescues his father from the burning Troy ) is made of imperial stone, sculptor was Lorenzo Mattielli. From this construction phase also comes the remarkable staircase, the steps from Kaiserstein, with the atlantic figures, which serve as columns instead of pillars. In the center stands a resting Hercules, over which the profile portrait of the prince to the oil painting by Louis Dorigny with the depiction of the “Apollo in the sun car” (1710/11) passes on. The sculptures from Zogelsdorfer Steinin the stairwell are by Giovanni Giuliani. Deliveries from Kaisersteinbruch were made by Meister Reichardt Fux. The most important room completed under the direction of Fischer von Erlach is the so-called Red Salon, the former audience room. Here painted in 1697 to Vienna painter Marcantonio Chiarini (squaring) and Andrea Lanzani (figures) painted the “recording of Hercules in the Olympus”.

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In 1702 the building was taken over by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt. In this phase, a few magnificent rooms were created, above all the Gold Cabinet with a Solimenas oil painting as its center. After the acquisition of the east adjoining house by Prince Eugen the facade was expanded in 1708 to twelve axes. Stonemasonry was provided here by the Kaisersteinbruch masters Giovanni Battista Passerini and Elias Hügel.

During the last restoration, a sala terrena with grotesque paintings by Jonas Drentwett was discovered next to the vestibule. This space, which has been used for document filing for decades, is not mentioned in the sources. However, since in the medallion with the representation of the “Histoire” in the middle of the window wall among the battles fought by Prince Eugen also “Höchstätt” is quoted, the fresco can be dated to 1704.

Around 1710 was the installation of the now no longer preserved house chapel and a gallery. The central representation room, the so-called Blue Salon with frescoes by Marcantonio Chiarini and Louis Dorigny, also dates from this period. 1719 could be widened by the acquisition of the western adjoining house, the front on seventeen axes, which were used to install the library. Stone carvings were again provided by Elias Hügel. Lorenzo Mattielli designed the Torreliefs and the Wandzierbrunnen in the courtyard.

Prince Eugene died in 1736. His niece Anna Viktoria von Savoyen, married to the Princess von Sachsen-Hildburghausen since 17 April 1738, became one of the richest people in Europe. (Her husband Joseph Friedrich von Sachsen-Hildburghausen served the Habsburgs as a general and military administrator.) She auctioned off Eugen’s estate; the palace fell (like most other buildings of the prince) to the imperial court and was after a reconstruction by Pacassi in 1752 the seat of various state institutions, since 1848 the kk Ministry of Finance.

As Hofärar, managed by the imperial family property, the palace fell in 1918 at the disintegration of Old Austria to the since 12 November 1918 republican German Austria, since 1919 called the Republic of Austria. Since 1920, the ministry has been designated the Federal Ministry of Finance.

The ceremonial staircase narrowly escaped destruction on April 8, 1945. This Sunday, at 14 o’clock in the course of the conquest of Vienna by the Red Army, an attack of Soviet aircraft on the Inner City took place. A bomb fell through the roof of the palace and exploded in the attic. The ceiling painting of the French painter Louis Dorigny was damaged, but could be restored by experts of the Academy of Fine Arts.

From 2007 to 2013, the Stadtpalais was refurbished on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

The Winter Palace has a twelve-bay flat Baroque façade with three portals, each given double corbels that support a balcony and decorated balustrade. In place of standard columns or pillars, Fischer von Erlach designed bas-reliefs depicting military scenes from ancient mythology—Hercules fighting the giant Antaeus on the left, and Aeneas saving his father Anchises from burning Troy on the right. These images from the classical world are meant to invoke Prince Eugene’s glorious military accomplishments. Above each portal are tall windows of the piano nobile, made distinct from the other windows by their reversed segmented pediments with insert cartouches. The façade is broken up by colossal pilasters with flat composite capitals that extend the full height of the building to the cornice.