The Belvedere is a historic building complex in Vienna, Austria, consisting of two Baroque palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere), the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The buildings are set in a Baroque park landscape in the third district of the city, on the south-eastern edge of its centre. It houses the Belvedere museum. The grounds are set on a gentle gradient and include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates. The Baroque palace complex was built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy.

The Belvedere was built during a period of extensive construction in Vienna, which at the time was both the imperial capital and home to the ruling Habsburg dynasty. This period of prosperity followed on from the commander-in-chief Prince Eugene of Savoy’s successful conclusion of a series of wars against the Ottoman Empire.

On 30 November 1697, one year after commencing with the construction of the Stadtpalais, Prince Eugene purchased a sizable plot of land south of the Rennweg, the main road to Hungary. Plans for the Belvedere garden complex were drawn up immediately. The prince chose Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt as the chief architect for this project rather than Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, the creator of his Stadtpalais. Hildebrandt (1668–1745), whom the general had met whilst engaged in a military campaign in Piedmont, had already built Ráckeve Palace for him in 1702 on Csepel, an island in the Danube south of Budapest. He later went on to build numerous other edifices in his service. The architect had studied civil engineering in Rome under Carlo Fontana and had gone into imperial service in 1695–96 in order to learn how to build fortifications. From 1696 onwards, records show that he was employed as a court architect in Vienna. As well as the Belvedere, Hildebrandt’s most outstanding achievements include the Schloss Hof Palace, which was also commissioned by Prince Eugene, the Schwarzenberg Palace (formerly known as the Mansfeld–Fondi Palace), the Kinsky Palace, as well as the entire Göttweig Monastery estate in the Wachau Valley.

At the time that the prince was planning to buy the land on the outskirts of Vienna for his Belvedere project, the area was completely undeveloped – an ideal place to construct a landscaped garden and summer palace. However, a month before the prince made his acquisition, the imperial Grand Marshal Count Heinrich Franz Mansfeld, Prince of Fondi, purchased the neighboring plot and commissioned Hildebrandt to build a garden palace on the land. To buy the plot, Prince Eugene was forced to take out a large loan secured against his Stadtpalais, which was still in the process of being built. He bought additional neighboring areas of land in 1708, 1716, and again in 1717–18 to allow him to expand the garden in stages.

Records indicate that the construction of the Upper Belvedere had started by 1712, as Prince Eugene submitted the request for a building inspection on 5 July 1713. Work proceeded swiftly, and Marcantonio Chiarini from Bologna started painting the quadratura in the central hall in 1715. The ambassador from the Spanish Flanders visited the Lower Belvedere, as well as the Stadtpalais, in April 1716. Extensive work was carried out on the grounds at the same time as construction went ahead on the Lustschloss, as the Lower Belvedere was described on an early cityscape. Dominique Girard changed the plans for the garden significantly between January and May 1717, so that it could be completed by the following summer. Girard, who was employed as fontainier du roi, or the king’s water engineer, in Versailles from 1707–15, had started working as a garden inspector for the Bavarian elector Maximilian Emanuel from 1715 onwards. It was on the latter’s recommendation that he entered Prince Eugene’s employ. The statuary for the balustrade is the best known work of Giovanni Stanetti.



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