I've visited several famed art academies in the fine art capitals - Firenze (Florence), Venezia (Venice), and the wonderful city of Wien (Vienna) - all of them had at least one amazing iconic piece - Firenze had Michelangelo's perfect David, Venezia had the enigmatic Tempest by Giorgione and the prophetic triptych of Last Judgement by Hieronymus Bosch was the Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien's most recognizable piece, amongst other wonderful paintings by European masters, such as a series of exuberant small-scale oil sketches by Rubens, Dutch painting of the 17th century, represented by Rembrandt to Ruisdael and De Hooch, and works of Italian, French and Spanish schools by Botticelli, Titian, Murillo, Claude, Tiepolo and Guardi.
The Last Judgement's left panel was "Paradise" and the right panel was named "Hell". In the left and central panels, human and fantastic figures took their places along side rather decorative figures of god, angels and saints, while the right panel was nothing but figures of grotesqueness, who also occupied the most part of the central panel, representing a post-apocalyptic world being judged by the god sitting above. Both the left and central panels had orderly hierarchy in the sphere of god and also pleasing and comforting to see, with the lovely pale green and blue palettes, porcelain doll figurines, etc., despite the fact that even in the "paradise", a certain dark undertone was quite visible, represented by the fighting dark clouds and the malevolent chase of Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.
Of course, it was the nightmarish scenes of the damned caught most viewers' imaginations. The burning landscape, a controlled or organized chaos with many virtuosically weird and somewhat comical figures, was quite intriguing and funny and drew the viewers in with seductive force, until the viewers recognized themselves amongst the tortured and damned and the scenes became unbearably repugnant. No one would forget this most visceral horror.
Many other works were very fine but I'd choose "The Judgement of Paris" by Peter Paul Rubens as my second favorite there. The topic was always a fascinating one for me, but the reason for this pick was based on its impressive and lucid execution. I always enjoyed his sketches more than his "finished" paintings, because they revealed much more his personal touches. The atmosphere here was romantic and highly charged. Despite the rather idyllic setting, the composed posture of Paris, and the voluptuousness of the three goddesses, the barely hidden menace threatened to swallow everything and everyone. Lovely and terrible.
My Favorite Museum Collection Series
>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 39: My Favorite Paintings at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien (Vienna)
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