Göttweig Monastery's Collection of prints


The Graphic Collection Göttweig is the largest Austrian private collection of historical prints containing more than 30,000 sheets. Most of the holdings, date from the Renaissance and Baroque periods and include works by German, Dutch, Italian, French and English masters. Up to the present day, historic prints and selected modern prints complement and expand the collection. The digital indexing of the graphic collection is a project of the Center for Image Science at Danube University Krems in cooperation with the monastery Göttweig, headed by Prof Oliver Grau. Up until 2012, the paintings and prints were recorded in very high quality (up to 72 million pixels) using new technology at the Center's digitization center. In order to process, index, and for study purposes, the holdings were made available to the Center for Image Science (ZBW) at Danube University Krems in 2002. Since 2007, the collection has been online and to this day is being indexed in the Digital Humanities Lab, e.g., through virtual exhibitions. Prof Grau presented and discussed the main results of this pioneering research for the first time in 2011, together with the digitization projects of the British Museum, Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Rijksmuseum and Uffizi, at an international conference at the Herzog August Wolfenbüttel.



The Benedictine Abbey of Göttweig was founded in 1083. Its holdings of prints and drawings were acquired by various members of the convent from the 15th century onwards. The first news of prints at Göttweig Abbey comes from an archive record from 1612, which reports on some "Täfelein von Kupferstich" that Abbot Gregor I Schedler (r. 1604-10) had purchased for wall decoration. His successors in office added more prints to the slowly growing collection. For example, Abbot Gregor II Heller (r. 1648-69) had, among other things, the well-known copperplate engraving depicting the panoramic view of the Danube valley with the monastery of Göttweig made by Matthäus Küsel and purchased several hundred copperplate engravings.

Abbot Gottfried Bessel (r. 1714-49), who was active as a diplomat, scientist, and patron of the arts, is considered to be the actual founder of the collection. One of his orders was the important series of copper engravings by Salomon Kleiner (1700-1761), which shows the newly designed Baroque monastery complex by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt (1668-1745) in 15 engravings. The purchases Abbot Bessel made in a selective manner at this time, enhanced the collection’s holdings by more than 20,000 sheets. As documented by Bessel's preserved correspondence, he fostered lively contacts with individuals and institutions in Germany and abroad for the purpose of buying and exchanging prints. The cohesive basic holdings, assembled through the collecting activities of a single person, present the collection as an excellent object of study of Baroque patronage.

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