My castle is my home - the Innsbruck Hofburg as a mirror of eras and personalities

Claims to rulership, personal tastes and short-lived fashions made for frequent alterations to the interior design of the Imperial residence in the Austrian city of Innsbruck. This rapid change, which spanned the period from the reign of Maria Theresia to 1918, has now been comprehensively reconstructed as part of a project sponsored by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). The research, conducted by the Bundesmobilienverwaltung (Federal Administration of Moveables) in cooperation with the Austrian Federal Office for the Care of Monuments, provides fascinating insights into the residents' shifting needs and individual tastes, opening a window on the human sides of Austrian domestic and cultural history.

Chairs from the Imperial Apartment of the Innsbruck Hofburg, by Johann Geyr, 1838 © Use of this photo for editorial purposes is free of charge, subject to attribution: Museen des Mobiliendepots (MMD); Fritz Simak

The architecture of the Innsbruck Hofburg - chiefly used as a stopping-off point on the journeys to Italy after 1665 - was long neglected. It was Maria Theresia who, in 1754, finally initiated a comprehensive harmonisation and modernisation of the complex's appearance. "From then on, the main consideration was keeping the Imperial living quarters up to date as tastes and needs evolved," explains Dr. Lieselotte Hanzl-Wachter, whose work has brought this interesting period back to life. "Of great help to us were the furniture repositories which are virtually unparalleled in Europe. These gave us access to original furniture and even pieces of the valuable fabric from practically every period."

The evaluation of additional information from over 30 different collections of historical source materials allowed Dr. Hanzl-Wachter to produce the first-ever detailed illustration of the varying situations and needs of the complex's noble residents throughout the various stylistic eras from the Rococo and Biedermeier periods through to the end of the monarchy in 1918. Particularly interesting is the period from 1810-1860, during which the Innsbruck Hofburg experienced three radical refurbishments. The Bavarian crown prince Ludwig carried out his 1811 remodelling of the Hofburg in the Napoleonic "Empire" style, and his changes were followed just 26 years later by no fewer than 700 new pieces of furniture commissioned from the Innsbruck cabinet maker Johann Geyr by Emperor Ferdinand I - a more than princely commission, to be sure.

By 1858, though, the Viennese Court of Emperor Franz Joseph decided to move in another stylistic direction. This next redecoration was undertaken by the court sculptor August La Vigne, under the supervision of the Emperor's brother Archduke Karl Ludwig. Documents from the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (Family, Court and State Archive) confirm that Karl Ludwig was a man of highly individualistic tastes. He not only loved variety, choosing a different colour scheme for each room, but was also daring in his choice of colours. Apart from red, green and light blue, he opted for an intense yellow and pink-tinged white. In so doing, he created a striking contrast with the grand but restrained interior design of the building's counterpart - the Vienna Hofburg.

The results of the project, which was grant aided for one year by the Austrian Science Fund, will soon be published in the form of a book with 160 illustrations. This is a companion piece to the work performed by Dr. Hanzl-Wachter on the historically accurate reconstruction of the staterooms since 1994. These were lovingly restored following the Second World War, but the resources available at the time did not always allow the degree of historical accuracy that would have been desirable. Dr. Hanzl-Wachter's research will for the first time enable the Hofburg's staterooms to be shown to the public in a state of restoration of appropriate quality and authenticity.

Dr. Lieselotte Hanzl-Wachter
c/o Bundesmobilienverwaltung
Mariahilferstraße 88
A-1070 Vienna
T (+43) (0)1 523424027

This release by
Public Relations for Research & Development (PR&D)
Margaretenstrasse 70
A-1050 Vienna
T (+43) (0)1 5057044

Vienna, March 17, 2003