LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
About the Liechtenstein Princely Collections
The Collections of the Princes von und zu Liechtenstein contain major works of European art from five centuries. The larger-than-life-size bronze of “Christ in Distress” commissioned in 1607 by Prince Karl I von Liechtenstein (1569–1627) from Adrian de Fries that is still preserved in the Princely Collections’ holdings represents the first recorded commission of a work of art by a member of the Princely House.
Since that time the collections have been continuously expanded, with the result that today the Princely Collections number more than thirty thousand objects in their holdings. These are actively supplemented and enriched with complementary works in an ongoing acquisitions policy.
Continuity in collecting over several centuries combined with the enduring personal commitment to art and artists on the part of the Princely House have shaped a unique collection that stands out from other private and public collections not only in terms of the size but also the quality of its holdings. The broad spectrum of its areas of collection, the process of collection and renewal that has endured over centuries, and the by and large extremely good state of preservation of the objects, many of which have been part of this vast and carefully preserved treasure for centuries, lend the Collections their unique character in the context of art, architecture and history. The connections between the works of art and the history and lifestyle of one of Europe’s most venerable noble lineages on the one hand, and their relationship to the palaces built and decorated at the behest of the Princely House on the other, creates a multifaceted cosmos for the visitor to this website to discover and explore.
With the largest holdings of paintings by Peter Paul Rubens in private hands and the works by Anthony van Dyck, which were already in princely ownership from the seventeenth century, Flemish painting forms a central focus in the collection. Other focuses include Dutch landscapes, genre pictures and still lifes, Italian painting from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, and early German panel painting. The historical importance of bronze sculpture for the Princely Collections as one of the princes’ main areas of interest from the beginning of their collecting activity to the present day is reflected in the extensive holdings of works from the early sixteenth to the late eighteenth century, containing examples from the foremost sculptors, bronze founders and production centres in Europe.
The Princely Collections also hold a broad spectrum of pietra dura works, beginning with the objects commissioned by Prince Karl I von Liechtenstein from the court workshops at Prague to pieces created when lapidary art reached its zenith in Florence. Thousands of items of porcelain, furniture, tapestries, historical hunting weapons and engravings round off the extensive holdings of objects from highly diverse categories.
Down the ages the collection has always been decisively influenced by the interests of the Reigning Prince. In 1711, under Prince Johann Adam Andreas I von Liechtenstein (1657–1712), a passionate connoisseur and collector of art who amassed one of the most important collections of Flemish painting in a very short space of time, the collection was declared inalienable property and entailed, and has ever since been handed on from one head of the family to the next. This act of entailment ensured the continuity of the Princely Collections and has contributed to the preservation of important acquisitions and commissions over the centuries.
During the course of the history of the Princely Collections works by contemporary artists were regularly acquired or commissioned directly from these artists. Prince Joseph Wenzel I von Liechtenstein (1696–1772) assembled one of the most important collections of Venetian veduta painting with major works by Canaletto and Bellotto. In the nineteenth century commissions from Prince Alois II von Liechtenstein (1796–1858) to Rudolf von Alt, Friedrich von Amerling, Peter Fendi and Friedrich Gauermann resulted in often highly intimate insights into the life of the family and their estates.The active acquisitions policy of recent years pursued by Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein (born 1945) has done much to efface many of the painful losses suffered as a consequence of the sales that had become necessary after the Second World War, enriching the holdings with more than a thousand objects, many of them such as the Badminton Cabinet of spectacular quality, and raising the Princely Collections as a whole to a new level.
The presentation of the Princely Collections
The staff at the Princely Collections are responsible for the preservation, care, cataloguing, research and logistics of the objects in the holdings. The works of art treated in our in-house restoration studios in Vaduz and Vienna can be viewed in the permanent exhibitions at the two Viennese palaces, in monographic exhibitions and as loans in museums and galleries in Austria and abroad.
In future, the MARCH AT THE PALACE project will present an annual exhibition that can be viewed free of charge at the Garden Palace in the Rossau. During this month, the frequency of guided tours of the permanent exhibition on the piano nobile will be increased. Together with the Summer Rhapsody held in the palace grounds this is intended to highlight the philanthropic aspect of the family’s historical role in respect of art and culture as well as their present commitment to the arts.