Formerly the imperial
summer residence, Schloss Schönbrunn (Schönbrunn Palace) and its gardens
to the south-west of Vienna, near the River Wien, form one of the most important creations of
Viennese art in the 18th century.
Despite its apparent unity
of style, the complex incorporates various structural changes resulting from its long history.
After World War I the palace became a museum; it was restored after damage in World War
Schönbrunn Palace History
The property was
originally the Katterburg, an imperial hunting lodge that was destroyed in the Turkish siege of
1683. In 1688–90, possibly in connection with the coronation in 1690 of the Archduke Joseph
(later Emperor Joseph I) as King of Rome, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was commissioned
by Emperor Leopold I to draw up plans for a monumental imperial hunting lodge to be erected on
the hill where the Gloriette, a garden pavilion, now stands.
The projected hilltop site
for this work of triumphal architecture, with elaborate terraces and cascades, reflects the
Renaissance ideas absorbed by Fischer von Erlach during his stay in Italy.
The building actually
constructed in 1696–1700 looked, however, quite unlike the first utopian project. Probably for
financial reasons, the architect had to forgo the hilltop site and the splendid approach,
although the building’s function was raised from that of hunting lodge to imperial residence.
For this reason two separate courtyard blocks to accommodate the imperial household were added
adjacent to each end of the main building. French and Italian models were again used in the
second project (also published by Fischer von Erlach), notably Louis Le Vau’s project for the
garden façade at Versailles.
On the death of Joseph I,
Schloss Schönbrunn became the residence of his widow, Wilhelmina Amalia, and
it was then bought by Emperor Charles VI. Remodelling and modernization began in 1743, when the
young Empress Maria-Theresa ordered that the building, one of her favourite residences, should
be repaired and enlarged to accommodate the imperial household in comfort. Nikolaus Pacassi was
given this commission under the direction of Gundacker Ludwig Joseph, Graf von Althann. The
internal arrangement of the palace was substantially changed.
Pacassi removed Fischer
von Erlach’s two-storey hall occupying the full depth of the palace and replaced it with two
parallel galleries running the length of the central block, the Grosse Galerie, whose windows
open on to the main courtyard to the north, and the Kleine Galerie, which has associated
circular and oval cabinets and whose windows lead into the garden. These new rooms are leading
works of Austrian Rococo architecture. Pacassi replaced Fischer’s circular staircase with a
terrace and two S-shaped stairs and opened up a new driveway beneath the terrace giving access
to the garden.
A mezzanine floor was
inserted in the side wings, the central five bays were given an attached portico, and the
stable-buildings were connected to the main block by a colonnade to create a huge entrance
court. In the north-west corner of the main courtyard the Schlosstheater was
Most of the important
parts of the Rococo decoration of the palace from the reign of Maria-Theresa have
survived. A new, intimate style of living, which in some respects anticipated the early
19th-century Austrian Biedermeier, was realized here between 1760 and 1775; the
Porzellanzimmer, Miniaturenkabinett and Schreibzimmer are good examples. The fashion for the
Picturesque also found its way into the palace: the landscape rooms by Joseph Rosa, with
romantic views of wild mountains, and by Johann Wenzel Bergl, with exotic, tropical motifs,
show a desire to break out of the ceremonial framework of the Baroque.
Between 1817 and 1819 the
palace façades were modernized by Johann Aman. Working in a Neo-classical spirit, he wanted to
improve the balance and unity between the various parts of the building; he extended the
pilasters up to the main, continuous entablature and removed the Rococo decoration on the
garden side. The delicate blue tint of the exterior was changed to ochre, the ‘Schönbrunn
yellow’. The last phase of renovation of the palace interior took place under Emperor
Francis-Joseph; a restoration from 1869 removed much of the early 19th-century alterations,
replacing them with neo-Baroque copies of the original 18th-century work.
Schönbrunn Palace Gardens
Fischer von Erlach’s ideas
on the layout of the gardens were largely undeveloped in his first project, the ramps, grottoes
and cascades of which followed outdated ideas on landscape design from the Mannerist villas of
Italy. In the second project the garden was divided into monotonous box-edged borders, with a
small belvedere planned for the hilltop. The layout executed in1705 by the landscape gardener
Jean Trehet only partly followed Fischer von Erlach’s scheme, and unfortunately no plan of the
garden from this period has survived. From later documents and illustrations it can be
concluded that some of the existing compartments of the ornamental shrubbery near the palace
date back to Trehet’s work.
The present arrangement of
the garden between the palace and the hilltop was laid out in the 1750s and features long
avenues of trees clipped to form tall hedges flanking the parterre. It is based on the ideas of
the State Chancellor, Prince Wenzel Anton Kaunitz-Rietberg, who was especially interested in
the French taste; the diagonal avenues and the diverse shapes of the areas of ornamental
shrubbery are in the manner of Jacques-François Blondel. An important part of the work was
carried out by artists from Lorraine who came to Vienna with Maria-Theresa’s husband Emperor
Adriaen van Steckhoven
from the Netherlands laid out the so-called Holländischer Garten, where the Emperor could
indulge his keen interest in botany.
Schönbrunn Palace Map
Schönbrunn Palace is located in Vienna, Austria.
Adress: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Wien, Austria. Places to
visit: Schönbrunn Palace and the Gardens. To get directions use the map provided
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Schönbrunn Palace Photos
Schönbrunn Palace Exterior
Shloss Schoenbrunn Garden
Schloss Schoenbrunn Palm House
Schloss Schoenbrunn Gloriette
Schloss Schoenbrunn Gloriette and Garden
Schoenbrunn Palace interior
Schloss Schönbrunn - billiard room
Schloss Schoenbrunn Gardens
Schloss Schoenbrunn courtyard