What I pictured in my brain before visiting the Habsburgs special exhibit at Minneapolis Institute of Art was very similar to what I saw when I arrived. Ethereal women and well dressed men (and vice-versa) with abundance and grandeur strewn throughout. Lots of clouds and carvings, fabrics and fabrications, sparkles and succulence.
Giovanni Bologna, Deianira Abducted by the Centaur Nessus, 16th century
What did surprise me was a delight: elements represented in one room magically materialized as actual objects in the next. One room, a painting depicting their grand carriage. The next room, POOF: the ACTUAL carriage. Same went for clothes worn to coronations. In one room, a painting of Emperor Otto, and the next room the clothes he wore inside an air-tight clear box. It was breathtaking and unlike anything I'd experienced previously.
The collection spans the 13th through 20th centuries, from the dynasty's origins in Maximilian I, who guided the Habsburgs to to their world-power status. This status allowed them to amass an unprecedented collection of art. The collection follows their rule all of the way to the end of World War I in 1918, which ended an almost 600-year rule in Europe.
A main player in this empire, and its last ruler, Maria Theresa, mother of the famously posh Marie Antoinette. The luxuriousness of the pieces, clothing, scenes, and jewelry come as no surprise considering the lineage.
A Portrait of Maria Theresa, 1729
A well cared-for, emotional and beautifully curated collection of art and artifacts. The piece that moved me the most was Fire by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, which I cannot believe was painted in 1566. I was not familiar with Arcimboldo's work and upon looking into him, was further moved. This piece appears to be part of a series, with Water and Earth counterparts. If someone hasn't written a psychological thriller based on his art yet, they should. Paging Stephen King!
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Fire, 1566
Habsburgs: Rarely Seen Masterpieces from Europe's Greatest Dynasty runs through May 10 in The Minneapolis Institutre of Art's Target Galleries.