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Benvenuto Cellini, Saltcellar (Saliera), 1543.

The Kunst-und Wunderkammer of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries return in the much anticipated re-opening of the Kunstkammer in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. On March 1, 2013, after ten years of renovation, the Habsburg dynasty’s collection of naturalia and artificialia will re-emerge alongside its collection of paintings.

One wondrous work of artificialia is Benvenuto Cellini’s Saltcellar (1543). The golden personifications of land and sea intertwine as the left leg of Land, shown as a woman grazes the left leg of Sea, depicted as a man. Commissioned by François Ier, the object entered the Habsburg collection when it was given to Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol, who served as proxy at the marriage of King Charles IX of France to the Habsburg archduchess Elisabeth in 1570.The Kunsthistorisches Museum’s video anticipating the grand re-opening of its Kunstkammer includes the Saltcellar.

The Painting Gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum houses the largest collection of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s works. Similarly, it contains German artist Hans von Aachen’s many paintings. Von Aachen served Emperor Rudolf II as his peintre de chambre from 1592 until the emperor’s death in 1612. His works draw from mythology and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peasant Wedding, 1563.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peasant Wedding, 1563.
Hans von Aachen, Bacchus, Ceres and Amor, ca. 1600.
Hans von Aachen, Bacchus, Ceres and Amor, ca. 1600.
1. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, “From Treasury to Museum: The Collections of the Austrian Habsburgs,” in The Cultures of Collecting, eds. J. Elsner and R. Cardinal (London: Reaktion Books, 1994), 137-154.
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