The Kunstkammer Wien at the Kunsthistorisches Museum is due to reopen to the public on March 1, 2013. The collection – one of the world’s most important surviving “cabinets of curiosities” – will soon be on show in superbly renovated surroundings.
In 2002 the Kunstkammer (Chamber of Art and Wonders) had to be closed for structural and technical reasons. Following comprehensive rehabilitation and expansion of the exhibition tract, the collection of precious objects will reopen amid new splendor on March 1 next year. The new exhibition will comprise over 2,200 items in 20 rooms, devoted to different themes, occupying 2,700 square meters. The highlights will include superb goldsmithery such as the famous saliera (salt cellar) by Benvenuto Cellini, outstanding sculptures like the Krumlov madonna, masterly bronze figurines, intricate and bizarre ivory work and virtuoso carved stone vessels as well as precious clocks, complex automatons, rare scientific instruments and precious games.
The origins of the Kunstkammer Wien lie in the Habsburgs’ chambers of art and wonders, accumulated in the late Middle Ages, and the renaissance and Baroque periods. These collections included works of exceptional quality, commissioned or acquired by the emperors and other members of the imperial family. During the renaissance and Baroque eras the chambers of art and wonders were seen as encyclopedic collections encompassing the entire knowledge of the day. Rare, curious and unusual objects were particularly valued. Princes and kings collected exotic and uncommon materials, to which they often ascribed magical powers, such as precious stones, ostrich eggs, coral, and shark’s teeth, which were thought to be dragons’ tongues. Artists created extraordinary masterpieces from these natural products.