This project, approved by the Austria Science Fund (FWF) in the autumn of 2016, examines the visual culture of representations of the Habsburg rulers in the Empire’s cities. The team began work on the project in January 2017.

The analysis focuses on the most important cities in the Austrian hereditary lands, the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Kingdom of Hungary in the period between 1526 and 1711. These cities were the Habsburg seats (Prague, Vienna, Innsbruck, Graz and Pressburg) and some further important sites among the free royal cities of Hungary and the free cities of the Bohemian Crown. They are perceived as public spaces in which the modes of representation of the rulers (as emperors, kings or sovereigns) are communicated symbolically and visually manifested in a dialogue with the main social entities of the respective cities.

This symbolic realisation of real power or claims to it are investigated in their manifestation in works of art and buildings in these cities’ public spaces: in the rural stately homes, the city halls of the urban burghers, in monuments to rulers in the cities, and in ephemeral architecture such as triumph arches, which were erected for rulers’ entries to the city and temporarily constituted very specific spaces of power within the urban space. Religious spaces must also be considered as spaces of Habsburg representation, since the Habsburg Counter-Reformation saw many new churches built and new orders introduced, especially in Vienna and Prague.

Methodologically, the project is rooted in the history of spaces and aspects of media history. On the one hand, it employs the heterogeneous definitions of space in historical disciplines such as art history, while on the other hand it seeks to perceive the objects of inquiry as media that communicate messages whose addressees must however first be identified from case to case.

An important aspect is the general comparative perspective on the entire Habsburg territory. The aim is to establish the differences and commonalities between the Austrian, Bohemian and Hungarian cultures of Habsburg representation as they corresponded to the different political conditions and possibilities.