Some of the world’s greatest paintings are to be found in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Art History Museum. Several of the Habsburgs were notable collectors, and their works form the basis for the collection. Since for much of their reign, their empire included the Netherlands, it is surprisingly strong in Dutch painting is including those of Pieter Breugel – together with some luscious nudes. Fortunately photography was allowed in the collection, so here are some of the best pictures that I managed to take in my rather short visit.
The Entrance Hall was magnificent, even more lavish than the Entrance Hall of the Natural History Museum opposite. This photo gives some idea of the upper levels.
One of the pictures that I was delighted to see was this famous picture of the Hunters in the Snow, by Pieter Breugel the Elder. This is very famous among archaeologists because it was used by Hubert Lamb in his classic book on climate history to illustrate what the climate was like in the Little Ice Age of the 17th century, with the Hunters numbed by the cold, and people skating on the lakes in the middle distance: it was a very chilly winter!
And here is another of Breugel’s splendid works, this time the Peasant Wedding Feast, a picture of a wedding feast with the food being brought in on a litter, the band standing by on the left, and drinks being poured out in the bottom left. It’s a fascinating depiction of peasant life in the Middle Ages.
There are also some rather sexy nude pictures. Despite being good Catholics, the Hapsburgs liked a bit of sex, especially if it could be dressed up in a biblical scene. This is a good example of a very sexy picture, being Lot and his daughters by Albrecht Altdorfer in 1538. Here you see Lot’s lusciously nude daughter reclining with her equally nude father and about to make love to him.
After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, only Lot and his daughters were left alive, so the daughters were in a quandary. If they wanted to produce children and propagate the race, they could only do so by seducing their father and that is just what is happening here. Notice the glass of wine in the daughter’s hand with which she is going to make her father drunk before seducing him. And note at the top right hand corner the view from the mouth of the cave with Sodom and Gomorrah burning in the distance and the other daughter, also naked, waiting outside to seduce her father too. (Click on the picture for an enlargement).
The result of the incestuous couplings were the Ammonites and the Moabites, the ancestors of modern Palestinians
And here is a nice sexy picture of a Resting Venus by Dirk de Quade van Ravesteyn. This Venus is wearing all her jewellery to emphasise her desirability but she seems to have left aside all her clothes — which no doubt increases her desirability.
And here is a famous picture of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the elder. Eve has the Apple in her hand and notice the serpent hissing at her from above her hair, while Adam holds an apple with a leaf attached to conceal the vital part of his anatomy.
And here is another rather naughty picture of a sexy young lady wearing a see-through dress with her breasts and indeed nipples showing through quite clearly. The painting, by Francesco di Ubertino, is of a Sybil: Sibyls were one of the few Graeco-Roman mythological figures who also made it through into Christian mythology, indeed they became rather better known in the later mediaeval periods than in the classical period.
In the Middle Ages, there were up to 12 Sibyls, and I don’t quite know which one this is. If I knew a little bit more about late mediaeval mythology, I would look at that very strange headgear and know which Sybil it is, which might possibly explain why she wears such a very naughty dress. I only wish that such an interesting dress were to become fashionable today!
Then on to the new Museums Quarter, in the former stables of the palace