At the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

One of the great collections of the world. You'll want to spend the day (oh! and make sure to have coffee and cake at the cafe). If you can't get there in person, spend the day virtually exploring the museum here with Smarthistory as your guide.

Some background

videos + essays

Link to the Kunsthistorisches Museum's website

<em>Portrait of Vlad III Dracula (Ambras Portrait)</em>
Portrait of Vlad III Dracula (Ambras Portrait)

This likeness of Vlad III informed subsequent portrayals of the prince as a ruthless tyrant, and later, as Dracula himself.

Benvenuto Cellini, Salt Cellar
Benvenuto Cellini, Salt Cellar

Cellini's salt cellar was prized as luxury tableware and was also an intellectual conversation starter in renaissance France.

Matthew in the Coronation Gospels and Ebbo Gospels
Matthew in the Coronation Gospels and Ebbo Gospels

Two different portraits—it’s St. Matthew in both, but watch the style change from smooth modeling to frenzied brushwork.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, <em>Hunters in the Snow (Winter)</em>
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow (Winter)

Join the birds and soar through this frozen landscape. On the pond below, playful scenes warm the air.

Johannes Vermeer, <em>The Art of Painting</em>
Johannes Vermeer, The Art of Painting

A well-dressed artist paints Clio, the muse of history, but as with any Vermeer, the real subject here is light.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, <em>Peasant Wedding</em>
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peasant Wedding

Bruegel offers up a slice of peasant life. Despite our historical distance, this is a wedding party we can attend.

Giorgione, <em>Three Philosophers</em>
Giorgione, Three Philosophers

These three learned men differ in age, outlook, and dress. But do they represent religions, eras, or philosophies?

Jan Gossaert, <em>Saint Luke Painting the Madonna</em>
Jan Gossaert, Saint Luke Painting the Madonna

Without historical sources, what gives an artist authority to depict the divine? Gossaert channels St. Luke.

Parmigianino, <em>Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror</em>
Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

What a show-off! Hoping to win a papal commission, the confident young painter foregrounds his hand—and his skill.

Correggio, <em>Jupiter and Io</em>
Correggio, Jupiter and Io

With her open mouth, tilted head, and soft flesh, Io exudes sensuality, giving herself up willingly to Jupiter.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, <em>Judith with the Head of Holofernes</em>
Lucas Cranach the Elder, Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Such a gruesome act; such a passive woman. But is she really so refined? With Cranach, meaning is never clear-cut.

Rogier van der Weyden, <em>Crucifixion Triptych</em>
Rogier van der Weyden, Crucifixion Triptych

From the ruffled veil around Mary’s face to the lancet windows of a very Gothic Jerusalem, Rogier revels in detail.