Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt

The Austrian architect Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt (1663-1745) introduced a lighter, more decorative quality into Austrian baroque architecture. In his works he emphasized structural clarity enlivened by ornamental touches.

Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt was born in Genoa, Italy, on Nov. 14, 1663, the son of a German officer in the imperial army stationed there. He was trained in Rome under Carlo Fontana in civil architecture, but he also studied town planning, military architecture, and fortification. In 1695-1696 Hildebrandt served as a military engineer under Prince Eugene of Savoy during his campaigns in the Piedmont. Late in 1696 Hildebrandt arrived in Vienna, where he remained for the rest of his life. By 1698 he was an imperial councilor and by 1699 court architect (surveyor general of imperial buildings). In spite of his official position, Hildebrandt found most of his clients among the aristocracy of the empire, for Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, as chief court architect, dominated official building in Vienna. Although Hildebrandt received some commissions for religious buildings, he was largely a secular architect, constructing palaces and summer residences for the nobility.

Hildebrandt's greatest and most understanding patron was Count Friedrich Carl Schönborn, vice-chancellor of the empire and a passionate builder, who showed the greatest sympathy for his temperamental and erratic architect. For the Schönborn family Hildebrandt constructed their summer palace in Vienna (1706-1717) and their summer palace (1710-1717) and Loreto Church at Göllersdorf not far from the city; he also built churches on several of their properties, the family chapel in the Cathedral of Würzburg, and other chapels on their estates in Lower Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia.

Hildebrandt built the palace on the Freyung in Vienna for Count Wierich Daun (1713-1716), which is considered one of his best works and the most successful city palace of the period. Constructed on a small, narrow plot of land, the palace (now called the Daun-Kinsky Palace) is noteworthy for the ornamentation that enlivens the flat facade and for the ingenious interior features, particularly the grand stairway, where Hildebrandt achieved the monumentality the period required of a main stairway through brilliant exploitation of the extremely limited space at his disposal.

The Belvedere

At the same time, Hildebrandt was working for Prince Eugene of Savoy in the construction of his summer palace outside the city walls on the Rennweg. Situated on the street, with a long formal garden running up the slope behind it, the Belvedere Palace (1714-1716) was based on the plan of French city palaces with their walled courtyards in front of the building. This palace, planned to house the prince himself as well as his staff and some of his collections, proved to be too small, and the prince decided to have another palace built, at the other end of the garden on top of the hill, to be used primarily for entertaining and formal receptions. This palace (1721-1722), now called the Upper Belvedere to distinguish it from the first building, the Lower Belvedere, is Hildebrandt's masterpiece. With its intricate silhouette, clearly showing that it was meant to be seen from a distance, the Upper Belvedere, part suburban villa, part fantastic reception room, part garden pavilion, is joined to the relatively simpler Lower Belvedere by formal gardens with terraces, pools, fountains, mazes, and trimmed avenues of greenery, all as much part of the ensemble as the two buildings.

Fischer von Erlach's Karlskirche and Hildebrandt's Belvedere are the two major baroque monuments of Vienna. The Belvedere now houses the Österreichische Galerie (Austrian State Galleries of Art).

Other Works

Hildebrandt also collaborated with Balthasar Neumann in the planning and construction of the Residenz palace at Würzburg from 1720 to 1723 and again from 1729 to 1744. During this period Hildebrandt was busy on a score of projects, and his fame and esteem increased. In 1723 he was ennobled by the Emperor, and upon Fischer von Erlach's death that year Hildebrandt achieved the position of first court architect, for which he had worked and intrigued for years, only to lose it to Fischer's son shortly afterward. For Prince Eugene the architect planned the terraces at Schlosshof (1725-1732) and his palace of Rackeve on an island in the Danube near Budapest.

Of Hildebrandt's religious buildings the most noteworthy are the church of Maria-Treu (1698) and the Peterskirche (1702-1707), both in Vienna and both among the outstanding baroque monuments of the city. His grandiose plans for rebuilding and enlarging the monastery of Göttweig (1719), although left incomplete, reveal his abilities as an engineer in the fortifications and as an architect in the main building of the monastery, where the great staircase is one of his most successful creations.

For the prince-bishop of Salzburg, Count Franz Anton Harrach, Hildebrandt designed rooms in the Salzburg Residenz (1710-1711) and largely rebuilt Schloss Mirabell (1722-1725) in Salzburg, which contains one of his finest staircases. For the Harrach family he designed a garden pavilion for their city palace in Vienna and a summer palace outside the city.

Hildebrandt also designed monuments, temporary festival decorations, and even sarcophagi, such as the splendid lead tombs for several of the Hapsburgs in their burial crypt in the Capuchin Church in Vienna, the most notable being those for Emperor Leopold I (1705) and Joseph I (1712). During his last years Hildebrandt was working on Schloss Werneck, on illuminations celebrating the birth of the archdukes Joseph and Charles, and on the monastery of Klosterbruck (Louka) near Znaim in Moravia. He died on Nov. 16, 1745, in Vienna.

Further Reading on Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt

Hildebrandt's work is discussed in John Bourke, Baroque Churches of Central Europe (1958; 2d ed. rev. 1962); Nicholas Powell, From Baroque to Rococo (1959); and Eberhard Hempel, Baroque Art and Architecture in Central Europe (1965). See also Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Rococo Architecture in Southern Germany (1968).

    Post a comment