Vienna Sights

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Liechtenstein Museum Review

This private art collection is so vast that only a tenth of it is on display. Prince Karl I of Liechtenstein began collecting art back in the 17th century, and each of his descendents added to the family treasure trove. The palace itself is a splendid example of baroque architecture. A mere "summer palace" was not grand enough for Prince Johann Adam Andreas I, who commissioned a full-blown palace with a marble hall, grand staircases, impressive stuccowork by Santino Bussi (who was paid with 40 buckets of wine in addition to a tidy sum), and sumptuous ceiling frescoes by Marcantonio Franceschini and Andrea Pozzo.

The pride of the museum is the Peter Paul Rubens Room, showcasing the Decius Mus cycle, which illustrates episodes from the life of the heroic ancient Roman consul who waged a war against the Latins. The grandest picture of the eight-painting cycle illustrates the death of the consul, and it is high drama, indeed: Decius Mus gazes up to heaven as he falls off his massive gray steed as a lance pierces his throat in the middle of a pitched battle. All these paintings were made as models for a tapestry series, which is why Rubens's panels are so enormous. There are other Rubens gems here, including one of his best children's portraits, that of his daughter, Clara Serena Rubens. It's easy to spend the greater part of a day here. Behind the palace is the exquisite landscaped park.

Updated: 06-14-2012

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