12th - 18th CENTURY ART COLLECTIONS
Focuses are on Upper Austria’s Middle Age and Baroque art, complemented by an exquisite collection of Italian and Dutch works. Particularly well-represented is Viennese painting from the Biedermeier period, “atmospheric realism” and art nouveau.
The vaulted ceiling rooms largely preserved in their original condition house the abundant and important art collection from Romanesque to Baroque, in the presentation of which thematic focuses have also been taken into consideration in addition to chronology. Hence the first room is dominated by depictions of the Passion, in the second representations from the life of the Virgin Mary, in the third religious customs and ideas of the afterlife. The large corner hall presents the golden age of carved altars and the last rooms are dedicated to the Danube School and the Renaissance. The corridor with its 16th to 18th century sculptures and paintings offers a comparison of the world of men and the world of women. The art cabinet and Baroque hall await visitors at the end of the corridor.
FROM ROMANESQUE TO THE SCHÖNE STIL [“INTERNATIONAL GOTHIK”]
The museum’s most important works include the Romanesque Rieder crucifix, one of Austria’s oldest wood sculptures. The Madonnas sitting on a throne from the Schlägl monastery and from Styria represent late Romanesque art. With the particularly figurative Linz crucifix the museum has what was until that time the largest German Gothic painted panel. In the same room the first fully naked crucifix north of the Alps is also hanging. Particularly noteworthy is also the beautiful Madonna acquired from Salzburg, a stone figure of St. Giles perhaps coming from the main altar of the Steyr municipal parish church, a saint and a Pietà from the milieu of Hans von Judenburg as well as an altar wing by the master of the Friedrichsaltar.
THE FLOURISHING OF THE LATE GOTHIC
The focus of the next room is on the large wing images of the Eggelsberger Altar and the recently acquired Adoration of the Kings by the Master of Mondsee. With its detailed depictions in the style of the time of the life of the Virgin Mary and the young Christ it gives an impression of day-to-day life in the Late Middle Ages from birth to death. Two scenes from the St James legend bear witness to the significance of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The portraits of Frederick III and his beautiful wife Eleanor of Portugal are evocative of the last Emperor residing in Linz, from the funeral cortege of which the helmet and the shield with the coat of arms of the Land ob der Enns have remained preserved.
LIFE IN THE LATE MIDDLE AGES
The focuses of this room are the palm donkey, the magnificent processional poles and the impressive sacristy cabinet from Eferding, in which precious goldsmith works can be viewed. A legend panel from the pilgrimage church of Heiligenstadt near Mattighofen bears witness to the belief in miracles during this era. Two altar wings gave the devout an understanding of Christian works of compassion, through which they hoped to free their souls from purgatory. A wide image, which probably served as a predella panel in a Last Judgment altar, describes this. Fear and hope are also reflected in the Judgment Day relief, which perhaps also came from the ward of the Pulgarn Monastery near Linz, where at one time it admonished and comforted the infirm and dying.
THE ERA OF THE CARVED ALTARS
Immediately striking in the large portico dedicated to carved altars is the small altar, also from Pulgarn, probably created in Eferding. Additional centres of altar construction were Steyr, Braunau, Landshut and above all Passau, where probably the Master of the Kefermarkt altar was based. His major works include a Johannesschüssel [John the Baptist dish] – the severed head of John the Baptist presented when celebrating the patron saint’s day. Several figures and reliefs originate from the milieu and the successor to this important woodcarver, who is perhaps Martin Kriechbaum. Lienhart Krapfenbacher based in Freistadt is probably the master of the mighty, high altar of St. Leonhard bei Freistadt, of which only a fragment remains, which already incorporated elements of the Danube style in 1509 and thus segues into the last room.
THE ART OF THE DANUBE SCHOOL
The Danube school included various artists, who had in common a love for unspoilt landscapes and an expressive drama often bordering on brutality. The early major works included a Christ bearing the cross reminiscent of Jörg Breu and the Passion cycle coming from Pernštejn Castle in Mähren by Master H from 1507. Two altar wings with reliefs from the life of the Virgin Mary and St. Ursula are reminiscent of Wolf Huber in the painted background landscapes. A small altar with the dramatically staged martyr of St. Catherine and four reliefs with saints’ legends convey additional facets of the style. The most unsettling works of the Danube School sculpture include a monumental crucifix coming from a Graz church. The end of the Danube style is ultimately achieved with the altar figures coming from Lorch, already pointing towards Early Baroque.
In contrast to the Middle Ages exhibition international art dominates here. Thus, for example, the Florentine early phase of the Renaissance is represented by a Madonna relief from della Robbia’s milieu. The Roman High Renaissance includes a Madonna tondo by the Master of the Scandicci Lamentation, a colleague of Raffael. Many northern painters studied in Italy, for example Jan van Hemessen from Antwerp, whose Christ carrying the cross has elements of Michelangelo, while his “Calling of St. Matthew” impresses with vivid depictions of rural life. Magnificent furniture, plates from Urbino, tin containers, imperial eagle beakers and an elaborate iron chest bear witness to the luxuries of aristocratic life.
THE WORLD OF MEN – THE WORLD OF WOMEN
The content of the corridor references the adjacent rooms, where the thematic is further developed. Hence the world of man primarily addresses representation, war and hunting, for example in the portrait series of members of a hunting party. Men also fought for their beliefs, founded orders or died as saints. They dominated and were dominated, as this is expressed in the motif of the unequal couples, from Loth and his daughters to Samson and Dalila to Salome and St John the Baptist. A popular topic was love-crazed old men with young women. Lucas van Valckenborch’s “Bauernschenke” [“Country Inn”] unites all manner of men, from hen-pecked husbands to libertines. The woman appears as the seductress and the seduced, as well as saint, wife and mother – from Madonna to the pregnant sutler.
As is the case of the art cabinets of the aristocracy, this room is dedicated to fans and connoisseurs of everything precious and exquisite. In addition to paintings, the details of which first begin to open up upon careful scrutiny, the room also contains wonders of nature, such as ostrich eggs and ivory. Court art pictures of Rudolf II remind that the emperor perhaps once wanted to withdraw to his Linz castle with his treasures. This dream was however in vain due to the conflict with his brother Matthias. A few particularly valuable works come from the legacy of Baron Ludolf, particularly the pictures by Brueghel, Bredael, Bril, Berchem and van Goyen, as well as many small sculptures.