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The Egyptian Wing

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Dave the WriterIn 1891, his Imperial Highness, Emperor Franz-Josef I, absolute ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, cleaned out his closet.

For a couple hundred years, nobles vying for influence treated the chain of emperors and future emperors to some mighty fine gifts. A strong interest in the ancient world was de rigueur for people in the social stratosphere back then, and the Empire’s royal family was no exception. So, many of the most amazing and priceless gifts were from the time of Pharaonic Egypt, before young Cleopatra fell out of a rolled-up rug and took a shine to an old, balding Roman soldier.

Upwardly-mobile dukes and barons and such would send out their own ‘Doktor Joansses’ to scour ancient sites for the finest artifacts, many seemingly untouched by the millennia.

Eventually, even the huge Schönbrunn Palace ran out of closet space for all the magnificent treasures. Thus, old, mustachioed Franzy had a big, new closet built. It’s a marvel; the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna was clearly built to the taste of kings.

Later posts will cover a few on my favorite treasures there. But, this one’s focus is the wonderful building, one of the best-loved by the Viennese themselves. For my bride and I over the two-days we spent devouring its collection, the Egyptian Wing sums it up. From the head of Isis surrounded by beautiful, multi-colored marbles to the walls, ceilings and columns inside covered with bright pseudo-Egyptian reliefs, we passed through rooms truly worthy of those best-of-the-best items on display.

Whether you’re interested in Ancient Egypt or not, if you make it to Vienna, the museum building itself is worth the price of admission. And besides, with the Arab Spring having turned into the Muslim Brotherhood Winter, it’s probably the most prudent way to see the top Egyptian stuff anyway.

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