New Light on Old Masters
In 2005, the Alte Galerie was totally refurbished, having moved to Schloss Eggenberg. Its exhibits now arranged in the 1st storey of Schloss Eggenberg with its sober neutral rooms have been assembled to illuminate essential subjects of European art history instead of conventional chronology, in order to offer better orientation to modern visitors, also due to the proportions of the original Baroque room sequence. Not always familiar with the complexity of iconographical particularities of Old Masters, visitors are now able get to know them much more intensively, deepening knowledge of their own cultural heritage.
Medieval art (13th - 16th centuries) has been arranged in the southern wing (room 1 to 7) with the subjects Mariolatry, stained glass from Styrian churches leading from formal austerity to a more naturalistic, very narrative attitude, the infancy and Passion of Christ, and at last, the popular veneration of Saints, extremely widespread just before the Reformation.
Medieval art is mostly sacred, introduced into by the unique Romanesque vestry door from Friesach/ Carinthia (ca. 1280) where St. Nicholas is depicted as a blessing bishop showing the leading role of clergy in early and high medieval society.
The veneration of Mary, finely represented by the "Admont Virgin", is close to the infancy of Christ in his role as Saviour, reaching its peak in the Passion depicted most drastically in numerous crucifixion images and representations of the Dying Christ and the Man of Sorrows (panels and sculptures). Passion regularly has been visualized most vividly in order to lead the medieval beholder to compassion and intensified piety.
Beside Mary, other mediators, the Disciples of Christ and many Saints, play an important role, mirrored by innumerable images, panels and sculptures, also in the Alp regions. Late Gothic art with its narrative abundance, especially visible in panels for pilgrimage churches, was extremely popular also in Styria (altarpieces for the basilica of Mariazell) with report-like legends of miraculous healings). Also artistic innovations from Renaissance Italy found its way to Tyrol and Styria (Michael Pacher, workshop, martyrdom and burial of St. Thomas Becket; panel by the Master of St. Martin from Bruck/ Mur).
Post-medieval art (Renaissance and Baroque, late 16th - late 18th centuries) are presented in the eastern and northern wing. The former audience hall with its sober walls and vaults gives an introduction to the general aspects of profane art (landscape, portraits, complex allegories, e.g. by Jacob de Backer, Giovanni Pietro de Pomis) and sacred art (several biblical subjects, Old and New Testament) around and after 1600. The revival of Classical Antiquity in the Northern Renaissance is represented by paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and the "Netherlandish Romanists" as Frans Floris and late Mannerist masters: Hans von Aachen, Bartholomäus Spranger and Hendrik de Clerck. Other highlights are the two large allegories by Jan Brueghel the Elder ("Triumph of Death") and his brother Pieter Breughel the Younger ("St. George's Kermesse").
In Catholic regions of the German-speaking world, as Austria and Bavaria, during the 18th century. Here, lavishly decorated by mostly vernacular artists (Martino Altomonte, Veit Königer), numerous church interiors celebrate the triumph of Catholic faith.
The Rococo had a predilection for erotic art brilliantly executed. In the German-speaking world, there was hardly any artist to compete with the "conversation pieces", made on copper by Johann Georg Platzer who lead cabinet painting to its absolute peak in Vienna in the age of Empress Maria Theresia. Franz Christoph Janneck (born in Graz) also succeeded in small cabinet painting deeply influenced by the Dutch and Flemish tradition of the Golden Age.
In the late 18th century, when Emperor Joseph II enforced reforms in the spirit of Enlightenment, very different tendencies can be observed. Martin Johann Schmidt ("Kremser Schmidt") astonished his time with his nearly endless output of large canvasses, prepared in numerous oil sketches. He was the last great master of Austrian Baroque art. His contemporary, the Graz-born Johann Georg Edlinger, worked as an esteemed portrait painter in Munich, with a very Rembrandt-like manner. On the other hand, Neo-classical austerity preached by Winckelmann and his partisans also arose, dominating artistic education at the art academy in Vienna, gaining international renown around 1800.
Schloss Eggenberg is the most significant palace complex in Styria. Modelled on the Escorial in Spain, building work was started by Giovanni Pietro de Pomis in 1625 by order of Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg (1568-1634). At the basis of the construction and interior design lies a comprehensive mathematical and allegorical programme. Thus seen, the palace is an architectural mirror image of the universe. From September 2005 onwards, Schloss Eggenberg will present itself as a multifaceted centre for old art and as an invitation to a journey through bygone eras.