The palais (townhouse) at Sackstrasse 16 is named after its last aristocratic owners, the Counts of Herberstein, and is one of the most important historic buildings in the old part of Graz. The north wing of the house came into the possession of the Herberstein family in 1565. In 1637, that part of the building was sold to Johann Anton von Eggenberg and combined into a single property along with the south wing and the adjacent Bauernfeind’sches Haus. In 1754, the property was inherited by Maria Eleonore von Eggenberg. She left it to her husband Johann Leopold von Herberstein, in exchange for his Rothenturm property.
Between 1754–1757, architect Joseph Hueber (1715–1787) built an ornate central stairwell to weld the north and south wings and Bauernfeind’sches Haus into a single residence, as commissioned. A grand entrance opening to the courtyard via three pillared arcades likewise dates from this time.
The grand staircase is lined by pairs of putti carrying lanterns, and opens upwards to an illusionistic ceiling fresco depicting a view into Olympus. Like another fresco in the vestibule of the exhibition circuit on the 2nd floor, it is attributed to Philipp Carl Laubmann (1703–1792).
In the Rococo period, the walls and ceilings on the 2nd floor were given an opulent decorative makeover. In the north wing, a row of four rooms, an antechamber and a small cabinet room still survive:
The first room facing Sackstrasse contains a portrait of Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg over the fireplace. The splendid Mirror Room attached to a small antechamber may have been modelled on forerunners in Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. In the next two rooms, wall coverings of yellow and red brocade survive. The adjacent cabinet room is only one window-bay wide. It has a fireplace, and a pastoral scene integrated into the wall panelling on the long sides.
In 1833, Caroline of Naples and Sicily, widow of Charles Ferdinand, Duc de Berry and heir to the French throne, took up residence on the 2nd floor of the Palais Herberstein, and from October 1835 she occupied the 1st floor as well. She had the rooms facing the street adapted to her needs, and removed the (by then) unfashionable plaster decoration. Around that time, ‘aristocratic casino’ sessions and (from 1850) masked and society balls took place in the state rooms.
Between 1878–1885, the house was leased to the imperial Styrian Jury Court and to the Records Office & Land Registry. The Herberstein family also set up their estates management office here. In 1939/40, the house passed into Styrian government ownership. In 1941, the newly created Neue Galerie was installed in the east part of the 2nd floor, while the west part was used by the Eichler School of Dance until 1963. At that date, the Neue Galerie took over that part as well.
Since 12th May 2011, the Palais Herberstein has been the new home of the Cultural History Collection, at the ‘Museum im Palais’. It accommodates not only the permanent exhibition, but also the Collection’s temporary exhibitions.