Mechanical Splendours

Fabulous artworks in the Kunstkammer Wien

Kunstkammer Wien

The Cradle of the Museum

The Kunstkammer Wien is the most important collection of its kind in the world. Since March 1, 2013 this unique collection is now again open to the public. Come and see a »museum within the museum«: twenty newly-installed galleries invite you to experience a world of beauty and wit, curiosities and wonder.

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. Particularly desirable were rare, curious and unusual objects.

From the late Middle Ages to the Baroque, Habsburg emperors and archdukes 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 considered to be dragon’s tongues. From these natural products, artists created virtuoso works of art.

Over 2200 fabulous artworks await you in the Kunstkammer Wien. Among its highlights are examples of fabulous goldsmith work such as the celebrated Saliera by Benvenuto Cellini, outstanding sculptures such as the Krumau Madonna, magnificent bronze statuettes, delicate and bizarre ivories and precious stone vessels as well as valuable clocks, elaborate automatons, strange scientific instruments, sumptuous gameboards and much, much more.

Automat, so-called triumphal chariot with Minerva

Inside this table machine are two works that drive the car itself, the figures and a mechanical organ. The two horses move up and down, the little satyrs and the monkey on the back turn. Minerva rolls her eyes and polyphonic music can be heard from the organ. Dating around 1620 by Achilles Langenbucher (1579 – around 1650)

“Automaton clock with Diana on a centaur”

A complicated mechanism means that this centaur automaton can move across the dinner table at a given time. Heads would have turned, and the guests would have looked on in astonishment as the centaur rolls his eyes and finally shoots an arrow. Then the drinking game begins – the guest in whose direction the arrow flies has to give a toast and empty his glass. The automaton, with its unusual iconography alluding to the abduction of Dejanira by the centaur Nessus, the Rape of Europa, the Education of Achilles by Chiron and the hunt of Diana – would have provided a welcome opportunity for erudite humanist discussions.

Hans Jacob I. Bachmann (Augsburg, circa 1602/06) “Automaton clock with Diana on a centaur” Displayed in Hall 27 of the Kunstkammer Wien More information about the Kunstkammer here: https://www.khm.at/en/visit/collections/kunstkammer-wien/

“The bell tower automaton”

Crudely witty, the figures in this automaton point to a shared experience. The Duke of Bavaria gave the tower to his uncle, Archduke Ferdinand II, in memory of when they watched a commedia dell’arte play in Venice. Does it perhaps allude to the end of a more dissolute way of life with the ruler of Tyrol about to embark on his second marriage? A fine gift, its skilful design makes up for the crude joke at the end. Be prepared for a surprise!

Hans Schlottheim (Augsburg, circa 1580)
“The bell tower automaton”
Displayed in Hall 24 of the Kunstkammer Wien

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