Liechtenstein princely palace opens gates in Vienna

Fri May 3, 2013 7:23am EDT
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By Derek Brooks

VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna's Stadtpalais Liechtenstein, the city palace that launched a revival of Rococo in the mid 19th century, will offer public tours for the first time on Friday after an extensive face-lift.

The late 17th century palace was once the main residence of the princely family of Liechtenstein, one of Vienna's richest families considered to be at the cutting edge of art and architecture, before they moved to the tiny Alpine principality.

The Baroque building, which was revamped in the 1840s in the neo-Rococo style, was damaged during a bombing raid in World War II and when an Allied aircraft crashed into its roof in the final days of the war but it remained standing.

It was briefly patched up in 1970 and the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs used the space for offices with the gilded ornamentation hidden behind fake walls and under raised floors until restoration started in 2008.

The 100 million euro ($130 million) revamp returns the private structure to its pre-war glory and opulence, with plastered ceilings, gold leafing, and Thonet wood floors.

"The rebuilding was like a puzzle for the architects," said a palace spokeswoman. "We only had fragments and many of the original chandeliers had to be tracked down in basements of art dealers around Vienna."

While some of the renovated building will be kept as private living quarters, the public will get a look at many of its gilded Rococo rooms, its high Roman Baroque architecture and a selection of neo-Classical art.

The project was paid for by Prince Hans-Adam II whose family has ruled the 160 square km (62 square miles) principality of Liechtenstein since 1699 although Vienna remained their primary residence until the 1938 political annexation of Austria by Germany.   Continued...

A traditional Fiaker horsecarriage passes the Stadtpalais Liechtenstein in Vienna May 2, 2013. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader