I am in the presence of great art

I said those words today as I walked into the painting gallery of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the greatest collections of art in Europe, and then I wept, privately, of course, but such moments do that to me, so grateful for the opportunity to stand before paintings that make my heart sing, so grateful for art and great practitioners.

Vermeer’s The Art of Painting

I had been to the Kunsthistorisches Museum once before six years ago and had been yearning to return ever since. Some of my most favorite paintings are here. I went straight to see my beloveds: Pieter Bruegel’s The Peasant Dance and The Hunters in the Snow, and then sat for thirty minutes, at least, with Vermeer’s the Art of Painting, alone in Gallery 17, no one else stopping to study this Dutch interior. I sat there so long museum guards must have thought I was up to something other than just absorbing the intimacy, the color, the quiet motion of the painting.

I am a fan of the Dutch School of Still Life painting, also, especially Flower Still Life, and returned again and again to room 14 to admire Jan Bruegel, The Elder’s, elegant arrangements of flowers.

The Dutch School of Flower Still Life

This museum makes me want to move to Vienna, buy an annual membership, and stop by at least once a week. An entire room of Bruegels. A room of Ruebens. Three Rembrandt self portraits lined up

on a wall. Caravaggios. Canelettos. Raphaels. Tintorettos. I could have lain on one of the velvet settees napped and woken up in heaven, I am sure.

I spent a total of five hours in the the painting galleries, broken by a lunch of greens drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, cheesecake, and espresso at the museum cafe.

Gallery 12 had me in tears again—a true picture gallery, canvases floor to ceiling arranged by period, school, style. I just kept turning in circles.

Finally, I left the museum and wandered into the imperial maze that is Vienna within the Ring, seeking just the right place to have a glass of wine. And I found it, a small bar, tucked off an interior plaza, arriving a bit before they opened. Still, they beckoned me in, and without another customer (read tourist) in the room, I sat high on a bar stool, and to a backdrop of arias visited with the Italians preparing dinner for the soon-to-arrive locals at Martinelli’s. Bliss.

The Picture Gallery


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