Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace was originally known as the Katterburg estate, which Emperor Maximilian II and his successors developed and whose gardens they used for hunting game and fowl. After his death in 1637, Ferdinand’s widow, Eleonora Gonzaga, laid out formal gardens at Katterburg and renamed it Schönbrunn (“fair spring”). In 1728, Emperor Charles VI gave the estate to his daughter, Maria Theresa. She made Schönbrunn invaluable to political and court life, adding architecture that can still be seen today. Maria Theresa succeeded her father in 1740 and, in the 1750s, her consort Emperor Franz Stephan, an amateur naturalist, added a botanic garden and menagerie. By gathering rare plants and animals, they made the palace and gardens a symbol of the far reach of imperial power. In this respect, Schönbrunn had much in common with gardens such as France’s Jardin du Roi.
In 1754, the botanist Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (1727–1817) traveled to Central America on a botanical collecting expedition for Schönbrunn ordered by Franz Stephan. While there, he was captured and imprisoned by British forces for a year. Upon his release, he visited Cuba and Jamaica to collect more plants before returning to Vienna in 1759. He published Selectarum stirpium Americanarum historia in 1763, based on his exploration of the Americas. This volume contains Linnaean taxonomical descriptions of plants. Ferdinand Bauer and his brother Franz (who was also employed as a botanical artist at Kew Gardens) made plates for Jacquin’s Icones plantarum rariorum (1781–1793), which includes rare plants from Schönbrunn. Jacquin also produced another ambitious publication of the plants grown in Schönbrunn’s imperial gardens, Plantarum rariorum horti caeseri Schoenbrunnensis Descriptiones et icones (1797–1804).
Rix, Martyn. The Golden Age of Botanical Art. London: Andre Deutsch; Richmond, Surrey: In association with Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, 2012.
Schönbrunn. “History: The Beginning of the Park at Schönbrunn.” http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/things-to-know/gardens/history.html (accessed December 3, 2013).
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