The aim of the project is to close that research gap in Habsburg representation that exists between the research on Emperor Charles VI on the one hand and the contributions to the historical culture of Austria in the 19th century on the other.
The aim is not an “art history” of Maria Theresa's epoch in the sense of an overview of all genres, but rather to record and interpret those works and groups of works in prints, medals, easel painting and mural painting that are directly related to Maria Theresa's multi-layered representation under the terms “pictorial politics” and “visual culture”.
It proves to be a particular challenge that Maria Theresa ruled over a multitude of kingdoms and countries, which are to be considered accordingly in the analysis. It is not only for this reason that one must distance oneself from interpretations in the sense of a direct and centrally oriented appropriation of the visual arts by Maria Theresa. The focus is therefore not least on clarifying the organisation of the art business in order to be able to better assess the different forms of Maria Theresa's representation.
Within the framework of this project, it is essential to shed new light on the tension between the two central concepts of “representation” and “media” for the period presented, and ultimately to examine the viability of an art-historical paradigm of “Habsburg representation” in the 18th century that has so far been too little questioned. Thus, from the position of art history – and with the comprehensive inclusion of written primary sources – it will be deliberately asked how the individual works of art with their specific formal expression, their type-historical traditions and their content-related structure are involved in forms of “representation”.
In this sense, it is not only about the general question of the specific visualisation of power, but above all about examining the different potentials of the works involved in representation. If one examines works of art according to their position and significance within the framework of dynastic strategies of representation, then it becomes clear that visual media by no means merely depict historical events or political claims, but to a good extent also shape or co-formulate them. On this basis, for the first time it will be possible to create another contribution for a differentiation of the overall cultural image of the era of Maria Theresa and to re-evaluate the role of the visual arts in this process.
The results of the project have found their way into numerous publications – among other things in a summarised perspective in the anthology: Werner Telesko, Sandra Hertel and Stefanie Linsboth (eds.), Die Repräsentation Maria Theresias. Herrschaft und Bildpolitik im Zeitalter der Aufklärung (Schriftenreihe der Österreichischen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung des 18. Jahrhunderts, vol. 19), Vienna-Cologne-Weimar 2020.
Dr. Sandra Hertel
MMag. Stefanie Linsboth
Dr. Szabolcs Serfőző
January 2015 – April 2020