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Portraits of members of the House of Habsburg and Habsburg-Lorrain in the Bratislava City Gallery´s collections
The portraits of monarchs placed in public and private areas played an important role. They represented the legitimacy of individual´s power and of the tradition upon which it was based. The artists chose this genre to emphasise ruler´s exceptionality and political power; in case of portrait galleries they presented the entire family and its historic continuity.
The Bratislava City Gallery, which follows in the tradition established by the Municipal Museum, houses a great collection of rulers´ portraits made as a decoration of state rooms or acquired from local environment, for instance from the property of religious orders, or burghers. It is perhaps not necessary to remind that Bratislava was made a capital of the Hungarian kingdom in 1536 and was a coronation city of Hungarian kings and queens. Bratislava was also the seat of Archbishop of Hungary, who employed his own artists, and various artefacts were also commissioned by members of the House of Habsburg-Lorrain.
The collection of painting and drawing is dominated by larger than life portraits in various typologies of Habsburg representation, which originally decorated the walls of former council hall at the Old town hall. Some of them have been included in the decoration of the Primate´s Palace.
A rare example of family portrait galleries is a portrait set of Maria Theresa´s children, archduchesses and archdukes, which decorated the walls of Apponyi Castle in Jablonica. The equestrian portrait of Crown Prince Rudolph from the collection of Nyáry family, painted by Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz in 1889, after the prince´s death, is very interesting as well. Among a few statutes in the collection are marble busts of Archduke Friedrich of Austria-Teschen and his wife Izabela by William Burgstaller (the couple lived in Grassalkovich Palace until 1905). The quality of collection objects varies, as most of them are the copies made after the patterns of court artists or prints. Nevertheless they present a valuable evidence of our history and local collection activities.
The oldest portrait is that of Emperor Charles VI of 1728, attributed to Ján Jakub Matern. The portrait of Maria Theresa as a Hungarian queen, commissioned in 1742 by the city council, and the portrait of Emperor Joseph II from around 1770 were made by Daniel Schmidely. The portrait of Emperor Francis I by Karol Steinacker of 1832 shows him as a knight of the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary; his bust in antique style by Josef Klieber was donated to the city by the imperial family in remembrance of Napoleonic events. The most frequently represented monarch is Franz Joseph I, be it his portrait as a young crown prince by Karol Pálmai of 1852, or works from the early twentieth century by the native of Bratislava, Kornel Spányik.
Numerous portraits can also be found in the collection of drawings and prints. The considerable part is made by prints depicting the members of Habsburg dynasty from the seventeenth up to the early twentieth century. The collection is a result of long-time collection activities of the former Municipal Museum. Since it has not been built systematically, the individual sets are far from being complete. The collection objects come from different sources such as second-hand bookshops, antique shops or private collectors. The portrait set includes individual prints, prints from various cycles, or prints published in books. The collection includes both high-quality works and frequently repeated patterns of rather documentary nature. Worth special mention are earlier prints, reproductions of the sixteenth-century compositions from the workshop of Albrecht Dürer. The attention should also be paid to engravings with allegorical subjects from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries characterised by a high quality of rendering. One should also mention the portrait of Rudolph II by Aegidius Sadeler II, a Flemish artists working on imperial court in Prague, portrait of Maria Theresa by an Austrian engraver, Martin Tyroff, or the portrait of Joseph II by a German artist, Johann Daniel Hertz the Elder. Coronation portraits of some rulers, such as Joseph I by a German artist, Johann Ulrich Kraus, or illustrations from the 1664 book Mausoleum Potentissimorum ac Gloriosissimorum Regni Apostolici Regum [...], executed thanks to a Hungarian nobleman, František I. Nádasdy, are very impressive, too. The collection also includes a number of lithographs from the nineteenth century, when the technique of lithography was very popular mainly due to its similarity to drawing and simple reproduction.
With the financial support of CA Galéria G5 through ARS BRATISLAVENSIS.