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Magnificence and Illusionistic Spectacle: Bolognese Quadratura at the Belvedere of Prince Eugene of Savoy in Imperial Vienna


 Christina Lamb Chakalova


Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736) used his immense wealth and prominent political position to move artists and a multiplicity of art objects across cultural boundaries and political borders to convey courtly magnificence. He unified them at the Belvedere, his Viennese summer palace, where he also received international dignitaries and conducted foreign affairs. Crucial to his princely endeavor to create a Gesamtkunstwerk was “importing” the most preeminent Bolognese masters of fresco painting who specialized in quadratura – spectacular illusionistic painting that required a comprehensive knowledge of mathematics and geometric perspective to convincingly expand a room’s physical boundaries. Such marvelous and astounding displays of artistic and scientific prowess were considered to be expressions of the prince’s own intellect, knowledge, power, and ability to govern. The successful fashioning of Prince Eugene’s Belvedere impacted human behavior, social practices, and the rituals of cultural diplomacy in Habsburg Austria as well as the evolution of late Baroque art in central Europe.