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[Opinion] Masterpieces from Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

[Opinion] Masterpieces from Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Posted August. 10, 2007 05:46,   


The exhibition of masterpieces from the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna currently being held at the National Museum of Art in Deoksugung is titled “Great Habsburg Collectors.” One of the main exhibition masterpieces is “Infanta Margarita Teresa in White Garb” by Spanish court artist Velazquez. Margarita, the daughter of the Spanish King Philip IV, was betrothed at age two to the future Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, who was also her uncle. In an age before the birth of the camera, the painting served as a ‘proof’ to her future husband and family that the young bride was growing well.

Visitors to the exhibition will also hold their breaths at the beautiful portrait of “Marie de Bourgogne.” The Bourgogne family wanted the duke of Bourgogne’s daughter “Marie” to marry Charles, the successor to King Louis XI against her will. She sent a letter to Maximilian of Habsburg asking to save her from the unwanted marriage. In the end, the two tied the knot. The House of Habsburg sent Margarita, the daughter of Marie and Maximilian, then only three years old, to Charles instead, so as to abate France’s fury.

Marriages for political reasons were useful means for the House of Habsburg to dominate the Netherlands and Spain and to exert power over France. As a result, consanguineous marriages were prevalent and a jutting chin ran in the family. In the portrait of Emperor Rudolf II, the art-lover emperor (who never got married) showed his characteristic gloom and crankiness; the jutting chin, a symbol of the House, is well depicted as well.

The exhibition is comparable to a journey to 16th and 17th century Europe through paintings. It was the time when the absolute monarchy was at its height immediately after Columbus discovered the new world. It was a time when Mannerism flourished with miniature and genre paintings propped up by the royal family’s strong sponsorship.

The exhibition, which began on June 26, is expected break the 100,000 mark in the number of visitors this week, the largest number within the shortest period in the history of the National Museum of Art at Deoksugung. It can be said that Koreans’ appreciation for culture has grown to a new level when we see students busy jotting down their impressions and middle-aged female visitors overwhelmed by the masterpieces.

Chung Seong-hui, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com