Golden Ages. Masterpieces of book art from the Gothic to the Renaissance

Golden Ages. Masterpieces of book art from the Gothic to the Renaissance

The late middle ages were a golden age for Austrian book art. After centuries in which the Church was the only customer for any kind of manuscript, suddenly the aristocracy and the newly created universities became interested in books. The most prominent example of this development is the Evangeliary of Johannes von Troppau dating from 1368, the gold and silver binding of which is also the leitmotif of this exhibition. _ is illuminated manuscript, commissioned by Duke Albrecht III (1365–1395), is seen as the founding codex of the Imperial Court Library and, for the first time after many years, is being shown again to the public at the start of this exhibition, before being replaced by a facsimile at the beginning of December for reasons of conservation.
Together with many other valuable Gothic manuscripts, the Evangeliary bears witness to a book culture in which the deliberate collecting of books and the interest in their luxurious ornamentation became central elements. The mostly aristocratic clients acquired particular prominence, with reproductions of their crests testifying to their territorial claims and portrait-like images placing an emphasis on the owner’s individuality.
After the beginnings under Duke Albrecht III, book art flourished under Emperor Frederick III (1452–1493) and Emperor Maximilian I (1493–1519) in the form of often large-sized illuminated manuscripts such as the Books of Prayers made for Emperor Frederick III.
The exhibition ends with the Gutenberg revolution of the 15th century. The invention of book printing brought texts to a considerably larger circle of readers and the illumination of books by hand was replaced by the mechanical reproduction of illustrations. Masterpieces of this Renaissance book art such as the famous Vienna Heiltumsbuch and the woodcuts originating from Lucas Cranach are to be seen in this exhibition for the first time. “Golden Ages” is presenting more than 80 unique exhibits from over 200 years of book culture.


State Hall, Josefsplatz 1, 1010 Vienna


20. Nov. 2015 – 21. Feb. 2016