Schönbrunn Palace. The Architectural and Functional History of the Imperial Summer Residence

In close cooperation with the scholarly department of the Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsgesellschaft (SKB), this project surveys all relevant extant visual and textual sources on the architectural development of the palace complex and the functional history of Schönbrunn from the late seventeenth century to the present day in order to produce a scholarly publication on the Habsburg summer residence beyond the gates of Vienna (ed. by Elfriede Iby and Anna Mader-Kratky). Extensive pilot studies by the scholarly department of the SKB serve as an important basis for further research: following a survey of the extant material, further relevant sources are now being established and assessed. The materials are reproduced on the basis of the historical sources; particular attention is paid to finds from excavations and restoration work conducted under the aegis of the SKB since the 1990s.

The planned publication on the architectural and functional history of Schönbrunn Palace ranges from the late seventeenth century to the present day. It begins with the palace’s construction as a hunting and summer residence with corresponding gardens in the 1690s, examining the role of space and ceremony and the palace’s first furnishings and decorations, only few of which have survived.

The publication also focuses on the generous expansion of Schönbrunn Palace as Maria Theresa’s summer residence, which took place in two phases of construction and furnishing (1743–1749 and 1754–1765). The palace’s interior underwent exquisite ornamentation (the Great and the Small Galeries, the Vieux Laque Room, the East Asian Cabinets etc.), and the Palace Park also formed part of the project. The development of elaborate park buildings and an extensive programme of statues in the 1770s can be considered the final testing ground for Habsburg representation in the Baroque style.
After Maria Theresa’s death (1780), the palace remained largely uninhabited until Emperor Francis II/I chose it as his summer residence in the early nineteenth century and initiated reconstruction work in the late 1810s. Court architect Johann Aman suggested redesigning it in the contemporary Classicist style, which included undoing the Rococo façade decoration; the painting of the façades in what would later become known as “Schönbrunn yellow” also seems to date back to this phase. In the course of the nineteenth century, the interior continued to be decorated and modernised in the style of the day in order to meet the standards of residential comfort. With the end of the monarchy in 1919, the question arose as to how to use the extensive palace complex. In future, it would serve as a museum and a home to various institutions and private individuals.