Between Dying and Dancing

Tales of the early modern period

Renaissance und Baroque

Referred to as the early modern period, the centuries between 1500 and 1800 mark the transition from the Christian world view of the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment on the eve of the Modern Age: as old certainties dwindled, the search for new ways towards the future was fraught with conflict. The epoch is often associated with Renaissance and Baroque splendour. Yet on closer inspection, this dazzling façade also reveals a blood-soaked litany of endless wars and bitter distress.

As if guided by the unsteady hand of the goddess Fortuna, the dual countenance of this epoch is marked by religious struggle, by death and by the enjoyment of life, by hunger and abundance.

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Under the sign of Fortuna

Hovering between dance and death

The two faces of the early modern period are reflected in the sign of Fortuna, the capricious goddess of chance, whose inconstant moods can change from one moment to the next.


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Return of the Gods

The rediscovery of antiquity

Nothing is so typical for Renaissance art as the world of ancient gods and heroes.


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The Battle for Souls

In the Age of Religious Division

Around the middle of the 16th century the whole of Europe stands divided between Catholics and Protestants. Both camps are irreconcilably opposed to each other.

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Propaganda fidei

Art as a means of teaching faith

The Counter-Reformation not only extends to church interiors, where great altarpieces help instruct the people. Numerous small-sized paintings are also intended to help spread the substance of the faith in the home.


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Endless war

The scourge of the age

The entire modern period is filled with bloody conflict, Despite all efforts, the religious issue remains unresolved. War is ubiquitous, even in art. 

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On the road

A continent on the move

Ever-present war also sets Europe in motion. Despite all the danger and hardship, everyone seems to be on the move.

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The dream of abundance

The increased interest in nature turns the latter itself into a subject of art.


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Moments of happiness

Entertainment and pleasure

The allotted lifespan is measured only briefly. Every occasion is used to experience well-being and abundance for a short time.

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Art and connoisseurs

In the collector‘s cabinet

A particularly elitist pleasure is to collect art. Art collectors prove themselves before the world: They display an all-round education and exquisite taste, as well as wealth and social status.

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Role plays

Faces at court

The early modern period experiences a new flowering of portrait art, strengthened by the appreciation of important figures, as evidenced by numerous biographers from antiquity.

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Role models

Virtuous heroes and powerful women

Great men and women who have overcome their opponents through bravery and willpower or steadfastness and cunning, are regularly celebrated as role models in the poetry of antiquity. 


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From trauma to triumph

Austria barocca

For centuries, the constant Ottoman incursions have left a deep trauma, especially in Austria. Only the victories of Prince Eugen bring a sense of relief from constant danger. Fear is replaced by a mood of triumph.

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Carnival of the Gods

From courtly ceremonial to fête champêtre

The rococo comes to full fruition in the era of Maria Theresia. Pathos and severity of the Baroque period yield to serenity and esprit.

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Turn of an era

On the eve of the Enlightenment

The period of Emperor Joseph II (ruled 1780–1790) is the time of the Enlightenment and tolerance. The change in taste heralds a new era.

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