Southeast of Karlsplatz, the Belvedere sits on a slope above Vienna. The approach to the palace is memorable -- through a long garden with a huge circular pond that reflects the sky and the looming palace buildings. Designed by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, the last major Austrian baroque architect, the Belvedere was built as a summer home for Prince Eugene of Savoy. It consists of two palatial buildings made up of a series of interlocking cubes. Two great, flowing staircases dominate the interior. The Gold Salon in Lower Belvedere is one of the most beautiful rooms in the palace. A regal French-style garden lies between the two buildings.
Unteres Belvedere (Lower Belvedere), Rennweg 6A, was constructed from 1714 to 1716. Oberes Belvedere (Upper Belvedere) was started in 1721 and completed in 1723. Anton Bruckner, the composer, lived in one of the buildings until his death in 1896. The palace was the residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination sparked World War I. In May 1955, the Allied powers signed the peace treaty recognizing Austria as a sovereign state in Upper Belvedere. The treaty is on display in a large salon decorated in red marble.
Lower Belvedere houses the Barockmuseum (Museum of Baroque Art). Displayed here are the original sculptures from the Neuer Markt fountain (replaced now by copies), the work of Georg Raphael Donner, who died in 1741. During his life, Donner dominated the development of Austrian sculpture. The fountain's four figures represent the four major tributaries of the Danube. Works by Franz Anton Maulbertsch, an 18th-century painter, are also exhibited here. Maulbertsch, strongly influenced by Tiepolo, was the greatest and most original Austrian painter of his day. He was best known for his iridescent colors and flowing brushwork.
Museum Mittelalterlicher Kunst (Museum of Medieval Art) is in the Orangery at Lower Belvedere. Here you'll see art from the Gothic period as well as a Tyrolean Romanesque crucifix that dates from the 12th century.
Upper Belvedere houses the Galerie des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts (Gallery of 19th- and 20th-Century Art). Here you also find works by the artists of the 1897 Secessionist movement. Most outstanding are those by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), one of the movement's founders. Sharing almost equal billing with Klimt is Egon Schiele (1890-1918), whose masterpieces here include The Wife of an Artist.