Maria Theresa’s reign lasted for forty years, from 1740 to 1780. After a turbulent period at the beginning of her rule, the Habsburg monarchy entered a golden age. In the fields of state administration and foreign policy, Maria Theresa, the daughter of Charles VI, enacted measures that were to have a decisive influence on the further development of the monarchy. Although the monarch had a sceptical attitude towards the ideals of the Enlightenment, this epoch is still seen as a period of reform in which the Habsburg lands underwent a distinct process of modernization.
Under Maria Theresa courtly pomp and ceremony reached a final zenith before the sober-mindedness of the Josephine era that followed and the fall of the ancien régime in the French Revolution.
The idealization of Maria Theresa as the great ‘mother of the nation’ was a phenomenon that started well before her death. Thanks to her sixteen children she became a symbolic figurehead during her own lifetime. The exhibition examines the image of Maria Theresa as a family person and explores the often very complicated relationships between the individual members of the family.
The dark sides of this forceful monarch are also explored. Her intolerance towards other faiths, the creation of the mythic figure of Maria Theresa and her transformation into a positive figure of identification for the Habsburg dynasty are all subjected to critical examination.
This major jubilee exhibition is being mounted by Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. in cooperation with KHM-Museumsverband. Various aspects of the monarch’s life and work will be explored at four different venues:
"Vienna Imperial Furniture Collection"
Family and legacy
Hofmobiliendepot ∙ Imperial Furniture Collection
In the ‘Hofmobilieninspektion’, an institution founded by Maria Theresa in 1747 to administer the court holdings of furniture, the exhibition examines the family circle, the personal destinies and the dynastic marriage policy pursued by Maria Theresa together with the legacy of her status as a mythic figure that continued long after her death.
"Alliances and enmities"
Around 1775 Maria Theresa had a dower apartment furnished for herself at Schloss Hof, her country residence in Lower Austria. On the piano nobile of the palace the exhibition deals with her initial difficulties in establishing her rule, wars and peace agreements, losses and gains of territory as well as Maria Theresa’s powerful creative political will.
"Modernization and reforms"
Also located in the Marchfeld region of Lower Austria, the small and intimate Schloss Niederweiden was used for hunting parties and celebrations. At this exhibition venue the focus will be on the major domestic reforms enacted by Maria Theresa that were to change the state substantially.
"High Office and High Spirits"
Imperial Carriage Museum
At the Imperial Carriage Museum, the focus will be on Maria Theresa’s projection of her own image, caught as she was between the sometimes conflicting priorities of her identity as a woman and the ‘masculinity’ of her power as a ruler. Ornate coaches, liveries, uniforms and gowns will recreate the resplendence of formal court occasions and exuberant festivities.