Joseph Haydn: Imperial Anthem: ‘Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser’ (God preserve Franz the Emperor’), with a portrait of Emperor Franz II (I), coloured print, quartet movement

The Habsburgs in Sound and Image


One of the favoured ways of displaying the power and standing of the dynasty and court was by means of the fine arts, in particular the portrait. Portrayals of ancestors and genealogies together with family portraits were intended to legitimize the monarch’s rule and promote a sense of identity and pride in descent by demonstrating the long history of the dynasty. The Habsburg genealogy extended right back to the Olympian family. Portraits were also an important means of preparing the way for marital alliances, as they could be exchanged between courts. During the course of the Enlightenment court portraits underwent a change in purpose, with the emphasis now being on more ‘private’ family likenesses. But even these were used for political ends. Many examples survive of the way the Habsburgs chose to represent their dominion and power, both in pictorial and musical form.

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