death and the maiden

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This post is about a day at the Belvedere in Vienna. We see The Kiss and Napoleon Crossing the Alps, and I see Death and the Maiden.

It was Brad’s last day, and there were two things left for her to do. Firstly, she wanted to see Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”, and secondly, she wanted to go to a park to find the spot where the couple from Before Sunrise had spent the final hours of their night. Luckily, both were in the same area.

some thoughts about gardens

We took the metro to the Belvedere, a baroque palace complex that had been built in 1697, less than two decades after the last Ottoman siege of Vienna.

The place was huge. The Belvedere garden reminded me of that of Versailles, with its strict, geometric lines and its wide avenues.ย Perfect for military parades, I thought. Maybe that’s what people wanted after the Ottoman invasion. Or maybe it was the fashion of the day. Either way I didn’t like it. I preferred more natural-looking gardens.

the kiss

The Belvedere had been turned into an art museum a long time ago, and The Kiss, the painting that Brad wanted to see, was somewhere in it. We got tickets, and as soon as we entered the building we saw that there were signs pointing us toward the painting. It felt a bit like in the Louvre with its signs guiding people toward the Mona Lisa, just smaller and less crowded.

And just like in the Louvre, all you had to do was follow the other visitors to the busiest room of the museum. The Kiss had a metallic shine to it, more so than I had previously imagined. Its golden parts weren’t just painted, they appeared to be made of actual gold. It reminded me of some of the Christian icons I had seen in Georgia or Bulgaria. A dozen or so visitors were standing around, taking pictures of a picture. I took pictures of them taking pictures of a picture. Brad smiled.

in other news

The museum was nice, but it seemed a bit all over the place. You could find anything from the Middle Ages to contemporary art, most of it from Central or Western Europe.

When I noticed a famous painting that showed Napoleon looking all angry on his horse, I was surprised. I hadn’t expected it to be here, and with almost no fanfare. But as it turned out, the artist Jacques-Louis David had painted a handful of versions of Napoleon Crossing the Alps, each one of them on display in a different museum.

There was, however, one painting that stopped me cold in my tracks. It was called Death and the Maiden, and it had been painted by Egon Schiele in 1915, when he was 25 years old and leaving his then girlfriend for another woman. The style was expressionist, and it seemed a bit messy, but there was something about it that touched me deeply. I think it was the man’s hand caressing the woman’s head, and his wide-open, tortured eyes.

no garden

We stayed until the museum closed, then we tried to look for the Schwarzenberg garden, the last of the locations of Before Sunrise that Brad wanted to see.

It was difficult, and in the end it turned out that it belonged to a private theater now.

And then there was the Soviet monument. It consisted of a colonnade, a sculpture of a soldier, and a large Russian inscription: Monument to the soldiers of the Soviet Army, who have fallen for the liberation of Austria from fascism…

“WTF?” said Brad, and she looked disgusted.

Then we noticed the walls around the monument. They had been painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

And so it was okay.


a day at the Belvedere in Vienna:

  • benjamin k.

    That painting reminds me of “Susanne”:
    An when you mean to tell her, that you have no love to give her, she gets you on her wavelength and she lets the river answer, that you’ve always been her lover…


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