Profile - Albertina

The Founding of the Albertina

In the 1760’s Duke Albert, who was born in 1738 to Elector Friedrich August von Sachsen, married Marie-Christine, Maria-Theresia’s favourite daughter and he became governor of Hungary. It was Marie-Christine’s dowry which secured Duke Albert’s material wealth, without which his collecting later on would have been unthinkable. In July 1776 the Genoese art expert and Austrian ambassador Giacomo Conte Durazzo presented almost one thousand pieces of art to the ducal couple in Venice. Hand in hand with this gift came the Albertina’s founding certificate, the Discorso Preliminiare, in which Conte Durazzo not only explained the structural system of the future collection but also wrote down the principles of a dedicated philosopher of the Enlightenment: he wanted to create a collection for posterity that served higher purposes than all others: Education and the power of morality should distinguish this collection not amusement and representation.

In 1781 Duke Albert became Governor General of the Austrian Netherlands, thus the centres of the European art trade in Holland, France, Germany and England opened to him. After the loss of the Hungarian territories Albert and Marie-Christine retreated to Vienna, back to the palace on the bastion: today’s Abertina, which was put at their disposal by Kaiser Franz I. From then on until his death in 1822 Duke Albert was almost exclusively occupied with the extension and structuring of his collection. Very significant additions to the collection were achieved through the acquisition of 800 drawings from the collection of Charles Antoine Prince de Ligne – among them important drawings by Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael – as well as through the exchange of graphic prints for drawings from the Imperial Court library in 1796. This way the famous Dürer collection of Emperor Rudolf II made its entry into the Albertina collection, next to the main works of Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck. Nowadays this collection of drawings distinguishes the Albertina’s identity and ranking like no other collection. In 1816 Duke Albert’s will declared his collection an entailed estate and thereby permanently secured it for Austria as a Habsburg family possession.


In 1766 Albert Kasimir, Duke of Saxony (1738–1822), married Archduchess Marie Christine (1742–1798), Maria Theresa’s favourite daughter, who brought the Silesian duchy of Teschen into the marriage. Having amassed a vast fortune through his position of governor-general of Hungary and the Habsburg Netherlands, Duke Albert of Saxony-Teschen invested the major part of his funds in the compilation of a graphic art collection. Following their flight from Brussels and the approaching troops of the French Revolution, Emperor Francis II presented the couple with the Tarouca Palace in 1794. The adaptation of the old palace and the addition of the new wing, accommodating the staterooms, and the convent building were delayed because of war events and were only begun a few years after the Duchess’s death in 1798. Her famous tomb by Antonio Canova is in St. Augustin’s Church near the palace.

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