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Eternal splendour

The Viennese Goldsmith Joseph Moser (1715-1801)

The time of the Empress Maria Theresia (reigned 1740-1780) provided manifold opportunities for artists specializing in the decoration of churches - despite the fact that these decades were marked by tensions between the sensuality of traditional Baroque Catholicism and the new, austere religiosity of the Age of Enlightenment. Precious liturgical vessels celebrated both the Eucharist and served to commemorate the donor and thus became beacons of faith.

Donations made by the Empress herself document her deep piety and faith, as well as the splendour of the Imperial court. The Empress gave to numerous churches and monasteries in the Habsburg domains that rejoiced in some particularly close relationship with herself and her family. She also commissioned magnificent chapels in her various residences.

For these commissions Maria Theresia frequently relied upon the artistic skill of Joseph Moser (1715-1801), a goldsmith originally from Brno (Czech Republic) who is documented in Vienna after 1745. A relatively large number of extant works by him in Vienna and at other locations within the former Habsburg Empire document his employment by the Imperial court. During his long working life, Moser´s style saw a very remarkable development from the formal and decorative idiom of Late Baroque, to Rococo, to the classicism prevalent under the Emperor Joseph II.

This exhibition, a collaboration between the Diozösanmuseum St. Pölten (Museum of the Diocese of St. Pölten) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, offers a broad survey of the rich oeuvre of Joseph Moser, one of the most important goldsmiths in Vienna during the second half of the 18th century. In some cases it is the first time ever that monstrances, chalices and other vessels used during Mass and made of gilded silver and frequently encrusted with jewels, as well as reliquiaries in a great variety of shapes - some impressivily large and of the highest sculptural quality - leave the location for which they were commissioned and designed and where they have remained in use until today. Loans from numerous Austrian and international collections, assembled by the Church or by museums (Vienna, Innsbruck, Brixen, Melk, Sopron, Györ, Zagreb, and Temesvar, to name but a few), have been promised for this exhibition.

The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition will be the first ever comprehensive and lavishly illustrated work focussing on this important representative of the Decorative Arts in Vienna during the reign of the Empress Maria Theresia.

Between May 6 and October 5, 2003 Moser´s masterpieces will be on show in the Diozösanmuseum in St. Pölten; from October 22, 2003 until January 19, 2004 they will be displayed in the rooms immediately adjacent to the Hofburg Chapel, in the so-called Old Ecclesiastical Treasury. These rooms form a new exhibition venue of the Kunsthistorisches Museum that will be inaugurated with the show dedicated to Moser. In future, this location will be used to show temporary exhibitions connected to the permanent collections of the Secular and Ecclesiastical Treasury.

(Kopie 1)

22 October 2003
to 19 January 2004

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