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We’ll begin our tour with the collection’s most prized possession — The Last Judgment by Hieronymus Bosch. The modern viewer is amazed by the inferno in his famous triptych, rather than frightened. It mixes chimeras in the form of half snakes and half eggs, fear of wars and epidemics. And a great deal of the artist’s personal frustrations. I invite you to look closely at the details of the painting.
Cranach’s The Holy Family, as well as the obe by Jos van Klewe, will reveal the origins of the family portrait genre to us, while the religious paintings of the Quattrocento and Cinquecento art will disclose the rules of making art for religious meditation. And Rubens’ The Abduction of Orifia will serve us as an example of what art for sensual pleasure should look like.
The most valuable skill for an artist has long been the ability to reveal a complex subject by means of painting. This is why the gallery offers many outstanding examples of “stories” – paintings on biblical or antique subjects, such as Heinrich Füger’s Death of Germanicus and Angelo Caroselli’s The Suicide of Cato. Together we will try to understand the ideas behind these canvases and to feel how convincing they are for us today.
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The collection of the Academy of Fine Arts is a miniature museum of the history of arts; its current exhibition is seemingly designed to show what young artists had to pay attention to in order to become new titians and van dycks. This is why the gallery contains numerous examples of ‘stories’, paintings illustrating antique historical plots, sword-and-sandal installations of a kind of the pre-cinema era, such as Baby Moses Trampling on the Pharaoh’s Crown or Suicide of Cato. The Academy is also the only place in Vienna where you can find Italian art of the early Renaissance. And the grand altar of Hieronymus Bosch, of course. The Last Judgment is the best painting by this mysterious Dutch artist in Austria and, quite possibly, in the world.