But did it all spark joy is the larger question.
Emperor Ferdinand II sailed to the Americas in the 1500s and brought back lots of souvenirs, stuffing the nooks and crannies of Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck and thus creating the first museum in the world.
Then Napoleon busted into Austria and the tchotchke was bundled and sent to Vienna; specifically to Schloss Belvedere. Another emperor added to this by purchasing through an auction the “Cook Collection” of artifacts from Australia, Kiwiland and the Islands out there. You see where this is going.
Now the collection resides in Neue Burg, a semicircular wing connected to Hofburg and finished in 1913. WWI prevented the completion of the second symmetrical wing; and then, well, you know what happened.
Neue Burg to me is a strange place. Within this one wing of Hofburg there are museums devoted to arms and armor; considerable artifacts gathered by Viennese scientists from Ephesus, a major city of ancient times; a vast assortment of historical musical instruments; a new museum on Austria’s history; the main reading room of the national library; and the Welt Museum, where all of the Hapsburgs 400.000 souvenirs are housed, and with a single ticket one can wander all of it.
A personal favorite gallery for me whenever I am there is in the Arms and Armor section for the elaborately decorated falcon hoods. Naturally.
The most prominent piece in the Ethnography collection is a feathered Mexican headdress of hundreds of Quetzal feathers and many gold buttons; it is the only known headdress of its kind to be preserved.
One can spend, and I have spent days exploring the galleries. There is something beautiful to behold in each of them.
This Chinese panel is a particular favorite.
Why bring back one head when you can bring back many?
The museum had closed for renovation for a couple of years, and reopened in 2017. While I very much appreciate the new organizational scheme, it was disappointing that the museum felt compelled to add a social justice section. Apparently these articles from Kenya and Burkina Faso speak to, “empowerment” because former President Barack Obama “has been a beacon of hope for people exposed to discrimination ever since.”
All this rambling is but a lead up to my most recent visit for The Elegance of Hosokawa, Tradition of a Samurai Family, a temporary exhibit. In this presentation Hosokawa extended not only to military achievements but also to traditions like theater and tea ceremonies. Think UNESCO heritage but on a Japan-only scale.
Theater masks made of ink on wood from the 18th century.
Equally elegant tea service settings.
Striking Sake bottles.
A screen depicting Maki-gari, hunting on the Japanese plains, a practice that ended during the Edo Period.
A military leader’s fan, it lent an air of dignity to a general when gesturing to his troops. The fan design is used today by the umpire in sumo wrestling.
This tiered box is a Jubako, and used to contain food at festive events. Until recently many Japanese families used these boxes for certain auspicious occasions like New Year’s Day and weddings; the cost of the box, and the difficulty of maintenance has meant that it is less commonly used now in modern times.
A humorous piece, an ad offering a 50% discount on wares during Equinox Week.
In an adjacent gallery was a second new temporary exhibit, something about contemporary Nepalese art. Sure, why not? I told myself.
I should have quit while I was ahead. This is Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman and activist for education portrayed as a fasting Siddhartha.
The Art of the Bed is supposed to touch on gender discrimination in marriage. I am not even certain what I wrote in the previous sentence.
This chess set captured my attention artistically, so I did not read the caption to find out what it was intended to represent.
I had decided that the exhibit was just another social justice statement and was heading for the door when I passed by this piece.
And out the door of the Welt Museum I walked.