The Belvedere is a historic building complex in Vienna, Austria, consisting of two Baroque palaces the Upper and Lower Belvedere, the Orangery, and the palace stables. The whole complex is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Historic Centre of Vienna”. The buildings are set in a Baroque park landscape in the third district of the city, on the south-eastern edge of its centre. The ensemble contains some of Vienna’s most impressive buildings.
The Belvedere was built during a period of extensive construction in Vienna, which at the time was both the imperial capital and home to the ruling Habsburg dynasty. This period of prosperity followed on from the commander-in-chief Prince Eugene of Savoy's successful conclusion of a series of wars against the Ottoman Empire. The Baroque palace complex was built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy. After Prince Eugene of Savoy’s death Empress Maria Theresa acquired the entire complex and transformed the Upper Belvedere into an exhibition venue for the imperial collections – which made the building one of the first public museums in the world. After about hundred years later, in 1888, the imperial collections were relocated to the newly built Kunsthistorisches Museum. The Belvedere Palaces then became a residence once again and was undergoing some important renovations.
Today’s Belvedere is a collection of historical and modern buildings that double up as art museums, showcasing some of the most celebrated works of art in the world including famous paintings by Gustav Klimt. The grounds are set on a gentle gradient and include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates.
The Belvedere Palace uniquely blends the experience of architecture and art. In the state rooms, the visitors can experience more than 800 years of art ranging from the middle Ages to the present day. For this reason, to visit and work within this palace complex provides a special opportunity to get immersed in the essence of the Imperial City, its history and artistic prowess.
The Training Course
The European Heritage Training Course provided the participants an insight into the theoretical and practical aspects of stone conservation. The participants had the chance, through lectures, visits to museums and institutes, and most importantly, through practical work, to have a complete overview of the work of a conservator-restorer. This overview, guided by expert craftsmen, encompassed all the steps of the work starting from the theoretical bases all the way to the finishing touches on a restored sculpture.
The training course was divided into two segments. In the first part of the course the participants learned about the history, materials, and techniques of stone conservation in Austria. This provided the knowledge basis required for the second part of the training course, which was the practical work on the statues flanking the main entrance to the Upper Belvedere castle. For this second part, the participants were tasked with cleaning the sculptures, with the removal of fillings and with the reconstruction of missing parts.
Before the beginning of the works all the damages, changes and later additions on the sculptures had to be meticulously documented. This was very important in order to precisely assess the sculpture’s state of conservation, properly diagnose the issues, and devise the appropriate treatment methods to apply on the sculptures. During the duration of the course, the participants became increasingly familiar with the artwork, the tools, the materials, and most importantly, with the mindset of the conservator-restorer.
The combined practical and theoretical experience was broadened even further with guided visits to other important heritage sites in Vienna, such as the Schönbrunn Castle, and to various institutes in Vienna related to the field of conservation-restoration.
The European Heritage Training Course offered a unique “behind the scenes view” of the conservator-restorer's profession, which is rarely offered to people from neighboring disciplines, outside the narrow field istself. It also gave the participants the chance to help conserve a prestigious and highly visible work of art, all the while working at one of the most famous heritage sites in Austria.
The Training Course was jointly organised by Burghauptmannschaft Österreich, the Federal Monuments Authority Austria, and European Heritage Volunteers.