Studio of Martin van Meytens: The Coronation Banquet of Joseph II in the Römer in Frankfurt (detail), from the cycle ‘The Coronation of Joseph II at Frankfurt in 1764’, oil painting, after 1764

Show & show off

In the strictly hierarchical societies of past centuries every class had its own ways of expressing itself, whether it was a matter of consumption, manners, in everyday life or on special occasions, with the culture of elite groups generally being regarded by the broad mass of the population as a model worthy of emulation. In the case of a ruling dynasty like the Habsburgs particular importance was attached to showing off; after all, such display was a matter of demonstrating conspicuously their claim to power. Much of what is nowadays seen as the greatest achievements of Austrian culture has its origins in the pomp and circumstance of the Habsburg court.

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