Midwest Mounts Habsburg Magnificence

MINNEAPOLIS -- Little known, compared with the French or English royal dynasties, the Habsburgs were one of the most powerful and long lasting of ruling European families.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network can view the amazing collections of this immensely powerful Habsburg dynasty.

From early Medieval beginnings on the Upper Rhine, the family established its geographical stronghold in what is now Austria by the 13th century, and at various times personally held large areas of Europe, reaching its widest jurisdiction under the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-58) whose possessions included the Austrian hereditary lands, most of Hungary, today’s Benelux countries, northern Italy, Spain, Portugal and their colonies in Latin America.

Little known, compared with the French or English royal dynasties, the Habsburgs were one of the most powerful and long lasting of ruling European families.

From early Medieval beginnings on the Upper Rhine, the family established its geographical stronghold in what is now Austria by the 13th century, and at various times personally held large areas of Europe, reaching its widest jurisdiction under the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-58) whose possessions included the Austrian hereditary lands, most of Hungary, today’s Benelux countries, northern Italy, Spain, Portugal and their colonies in Latin America.

In addition to their heritable territories, the Habsburgs were repeatedly elected Holy Roman Emperors from 1452 to the dissolution of the Empire in 1806 (only briefly, from 1743 to 1745, did they not hold the position), which made them somewhat more than primi inter pares in the German-speaking lands, after which they ruled the Austrian (later Austro-Hungarian) Empire that covered most of south-eastern Europe, northern Italy and the Balkans until 1918. All told, the family ruled for 645 years.

Art Connoisseurs

In keeping with their status, most of these rulers collected art.

Some of them, such as Maximilian I (1459-1519), Charles V and Rudolf II (1552-1612) were exceptional connoisseurs.

Other family members, notably Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-95) and Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen (1738-1822) also assembled fabulous collections.

Paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, tapestries, jewelry, arms and armor, furniture, carriages, uniforms and court costumes, manuscripts, books and works on paper; all were prized.

(Duke Albert alone amassed 200,000 items.) In 1556, the dynasty divided into Spanish and Austrian branches, and each continued to collect.

Most of the works assembled before the family division are in Vienna, largely at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Now, the Habsburgs will posthumously extend their hegemony to the US:

The Kunsthistorisches Museum is lending works for the touring exhibition “The Habsburgs: Rarely Seen Masterpieces from Europe’s Greatest Dynasty” to illustrate, in three broad sections (13th-16th centuries; 17th-18th centuries; 19th-20th centuries), 500 years of this remarkable dynasty.

The exhibition opens at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts this month and travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in June and to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, in October.

The national sponsor is Bank of America, with local sponsorship and curatorial collaboration at each leg of the tour.

Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner, the curator of the imperial carriage collection at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, has organized the show and edited the catalogue, Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections, published by the Houston MFA ($60).

Today's homepage Featured Art Video offers a glimpse of the Minneapolis exhibition of this long-lived dynasty. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swKMrL8FJ-c&sns=em