Vienna has over 100 museums to choose from, from the very grand (the Kunsthistorisches Museum) to the tiny and bizarre (The Museum for Contraception and Abortion!). When we arrived, I vowed we would go to some of the more obscure ones, but for the most part, we have ended up doing repeat visits to our favorites, and haven’t ventured out to some of the odder ones. But while going through the reams of paper we have accumulated already on our trip, I found among the brochures one for the Hofmobiliendepot Möbel Museum Wien–the Imperial Furniture Depot and Museum. Since it was located in our district, and as our time in Vienna is running out, we decided to go visit yesterday.
I was expecting some ill-lit rooms, perhaps with some old pieces that had somehow survived from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and as we walked there in the bitter cold wind, we came very close to turning around and coming back. I’m so glad we didn’t: we were stunned at what we found. The Museum is enormous, and has been thoughtfully presented to give what amounts to a social history lesson through furniture. As the plaque above states, this site was the Kaiserlich und Königliches Mobilien Magazin–literally, the Royal Storage Unit for 300 years of the furniture and fixtures that occupied a myriad of the Habsburg Empire’s palaces, castles, hunting lodges, and summer villas. The vast machine that was the Imperial household required entire departments that did nothing but remove furniture from one palace and transport it to another; many of the hundreds of artisans who gilded, carved, and constructed these objects lived in the royal quarters. The Museum’s wall panels are quite enlightening about the lifestyles of this completely vanished world of protocol and hierarchies.
Some of the displays of the over 60,000 objects on the Museum’s four floors make it look like an auction house, but even these sections have explanatory labels.
There are entire rooms devoted to footstools and prayer pews–
and an entire wall of Royal commodes!
My favorite room was the Workshop, focussing on the elaborate and painstkaing work carried out by craftsmen and artisans to produce all this stuff. Included in these display cases of wood inlay and metalwork were descriptions of now-lost processes to create all that elaborate ornamentation, along with those beautiful floors and wood inlay.
As a sop to the tourists, a whole section has been devoted to Sisi,
Empress Elisabeth, and the family of Franz Josef. They even have a
display of Prince Rudolph’s childhood lederhosen and the lugubrious cradle in which he was rocked.
Of greatest interest to those who really admire furniture design are the reconstructed rooms with original pieces of furniture, most of them from Vienna’s most influential styles, that of the Biedermeier period 1815-
1830. The examples here are splendid, and the descriptions of the manufacturing processes are detailed.
In a special exhibition space, the Museum also had a great exhibition, ”Lightopia”, emphasizing both historical and exciting new directions in illumination. I loved that lamp made of LED and dandelion fluff:
What a find! We were so exhausted and stimulated by what we saw there that I think we may have missed one floor!
By all means, come see this hidden treasure if you are in Vienna: