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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Vienna's Extraordinary Kunstkammer Reopens



Vienna: The extraordinary Kunstkammer at the Kunsthistorisches Museum has reopened after a decade-long renovation. The Kunstkammer features goldsmith work, bronze, ivory and wood sculptures, and exotic objects such as ostrich eggs, the horn of the legendary unicorn, plus the golden Saliera by Benvenuto Cellini.

Artdaily.org tells us that “The Kunst- und Wunderkammern (arts and natural wonders rooms) of the Renaissance and Baroque periods were encyclopaedic, universal collections that attempted to reflect the entire knowledge of the day. … princes and kings collected exotic and uncommon objects, to which they often ascribed magical powers, such as precious stones, ostrich eggs, coral and shark’s teeth, which were considered to be dragon’s tongues. From these natural products, artists created virtuoso works of art.”

Among the highlights in the Kunstkammer Wien are outstanding works of the goldsmith’s art, including the famous Saliera (salt cellar). This gem was crafted by Benvenuto Cellini in Paris in 1543  for Francis I of France, from models that had been prepared in Rome many years earlier for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este.

Incidentally, if you haven't read it already, I recommend the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571).