The eternal Emperor. Franz Joseph I. 1830–1916

The eternal Emperor. Franz Joseph I. 1830–1916

2016 sees the 100th anniversary of the death of Emperor Franz Joseph I. Even as a child, he was a public figure, and by the time of his death he had probably become the most portrayed person of the 19th century. His mother had arranged for his picture to be painted soon after he was born, and each year saw new genre paintings and portraits. From his accession to the throne in 1848, he was accompanied by painters, lithographers and, with increasing frequency, photographers wherever he went. The anniversaries of his reign and his 80th birthday gave rise not only to countless homages and tributes, but also to a veritable explosion of images, spread through the media of the illustrated press and the first picture postcards. His apparently timeless face was now omnipresent, the only binding symbol of the collapsing Habsburg empire. His death in the middle of the First World War and the funeral procession through wintry Vienna attracted the attention of the whole world, and became the unmistakable sign of the end of an era.

Today, the Austrian National Library holds over 10,000 photographs, paintings and other documents of the life of Franz Joseph, including drawings and school essays by the young Archduke. The Emperor’s private library contributed valuable gifts, books and magazines testifying to the loyalty and at times unthinking adoration that were directed to the Emperor towards the end of his life. The collection also includes letters and photographs of Franz Joseph from the estate of his friend Katharina Schratt.

The exhibition »The Eternal Emperor« presents the highlights of this extensive collection, at the same time showing the importance of the images of his person for political propaganda and the creation of the Habsburg myth. This is shown impressively by an installation in the State Hall with 86 portraits of Franz Joseph from the 86 years of his life. In addition, numerous letters and photos are presented to the public for the first time – such as Mary Vetsera’s original suicide note with Crown Prince Rudolf ’s envelope, only rediscovered in 2015.


State Hall, Josefsplatz 1, 1010 Vienna


11. March – 27. Nov. 2016