A good decade after arriving in Vienna, Prince Eugene of Savoy had acquired sufficient funds to build a residence befitting his status. On Himmelpfortgasse in the city center he commissioned Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to design a seven-bay palace, which was extended by five bays on either side in two later phases. An impressive exterior was thus created and vast sums of money were invested in its interior decoration. After Prince Eugene died, Empress Maria Theresa purchased the palace in 1752 and court architect Nicolaus von Pacassi made substantial alterations to the building. Significant parts of the wall decorations remained intact, however – including the ceiling frescoes in the Audience Chamber and Paradeschlafzimmer (State Bedroom), the Gold Cabinet and the many grotesques.
The opening exhibition at the Winter Palace, an attraction in itself, takes the occasion of Prince Eugene’s 350th birthday to focus on his biography, family background, the building of the palace, and its owner’s military achievements. A selection of objects from various disciplines is to be incorporated in and highlight the existing structure of the rooms. As part of Eugene’s personal story his family background will be examined, while the section on the building’s history will shed light on the original appearance of the palace interior, partially recorded in Salomon Kleiner’s drawings. As a general and diplomat the former owner achieved lasting fame and wealth. It therefore comes as no surprise that his military successes are memorialized in his town palace in a series of large-scale battle paintings by Ignace Jacques Parrocel. These impressive images spark interest in examining the side of Prince Eugene’s life that has gone down in the history books.