I fully agree with Nicolaitan, a fine connoisseur of art and history, that the statue of Emperor Josef II can be considered as a plagiarism of the original Marcus Aurelian equestrian statue exposed inside the Capitoline Museums with a recent copy exposed on the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome.
You can compare hereafter my photos of the original Marcus Aurelian equestrian statue and that of Josef II (1741 - 1790), the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresia, by Franz Anton Zauner inaugurated in 1807.
Actually this was the first statue from an Austrian Habsburg emperor standing on a public square and the people of Vienna started to grumble that "so much money had been spend and the Kaiser had to sit on a horse without saddle or stirrup!" The fact is that at the time of Marcul Aurelius (121 - 180 AD) Romans ignored the stirrup.
Let's forget the statue of Josef II, an imitation of a Roman statue, and look at the various buildings showing a remarkable homogeneity making the Josefsplatz the most architectural homogeneous square of Vienna. Mostly thanks to the imperial court architect Nikolaus von Pacassi around 1760.
The main building is the "Österreichische Nationalbibliothek", National Library, from architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach in 1723 and continued by his son Joseph Emanuel.
Spectacular are the decors at the top of the façades. The sculptures are from Lorenzo Mattielli: a quadriga ridden by Athena, a gilded globe supporter by the usual Atlas on the left side and another globe supported by Gaia, the earth goddess, less usual, plus other statues representing sciences.
Opposite the National Library one finds the classic Palace Pallavicini and the renaissance façade Palace Palffy. The building on the right has entrance to the Spanish riding school on the days with performances by the Lippizans. See my review Spanische Hofreitschule - Practical Info.
Founded by the Habsburgs, the library was originally called the "Hof-Bibliothek", Imperial Library. The library complex includes four museums of which the "Prunksaal" State Hall (1723), Papyrus Museum, Globe Museum, Esperanto Museum, as well as multiple special collections and archives. The entrance prices are rather high: 7 € for the Prunksaal but worthwhile for the décor; 5 € for the Globe museum.
Josefsplatz (Joseph's Square) is named after Emperor Joseph II, the eldest son of Maria Theresia empress of Austria, and the brother of Maria Antoinette, the queen of France. This square is considered one of the finest in Vienna. Joseph II (1741-1790) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. Joseph was a proponent of enlightened absolutism. He asked that his epitaph read; "Here lies Joseph II, who failed in all he undertook".
The central position of the square is occupied by the equestrian statue of the Emperor Joseph II, in a full size. The sculpture was erected by the Austrian sculptor Franz Anton Zauner between 1795 and 1807. The sculptor was inspired by the statue of Marcus Aurelius on Capitoline Hill in Rome. Joseph II, who was the last Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, is depicted as a Roman conquerer, dressed in a toga and a laurel wreath. Such look of sculpture reflects the Habsburg belief that they were descendants of the ancient Roman emperors.
The Imperial Library, colloquially called Prunksaal, was founded by Charles VI. Its construction was begun by Johann Bernhard Fisher von Erlach and finished by his son Joseph Emanuel in 1735. It is the most significant part of Hofburg in artistic terms.
On the left portion of the roof, executed by Lorenzo Matielli in 1726, is situated Atlas, supporting the celestial globe and flanked by Astronomy and Astrology. On the opposite side is Gaia with the terrestrial globe and flanked by allegories of Geometry and Geography. In the central position of the roof, above the entrance, is Athena riding on a quadriga.
The striking Josefsplatz, made even more famous by the post-WWII movie The Third Man, suffers today as a parking lot and main pedestrian thoroughfare, dates to the 18th C. It is surrounded by a wing of the National Library with a roof topped by classic statuary, the Augustinian Church, and the building housing the Spanish Riding School. The statues are classically beautiful, worth noting.
At the center is a statue of the reform-minded HRE Josef II. The strong alliance of the Hapsburgs with the papacy in Rome and the incredibly widespread Austrian Empire made Josef a leader of many peoples. Like other emperors, he tried to be a leader for all these people in the manner of the ancient Roman leaders. The statue created around 1800 by Franz Anton Zauner depicts him as a Roman Emperor and copies a statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome's Piazza de Campidoglio complete with upraised right arm. Reliefs at the base depict his military conquests, a visit to Rome to schmooze with the Pope, and most interestingly a relief of two different religions shaking hands - testimony to his tolerance for all faiths in a unified Austrian Empire ( even after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire concept in 1806 ) and creation of the Austrian Empire.
The roof statuary is by Lorenzo Mattielli dating to 1726. At the center, Athena, the goddess of wisdom and justice, rides a quadriga. To the left side as you face, Atlas supports the globe with Astronomy and Astrology at his sides. To the right, the globe is supported by Gaia, the earth goddess with adjacent statues of geometry and geology. All fitting for the roof of one of the world's great libraries.
Even more shameless in its attempt to mimic Roman splendor is the statue of Francis II/I, first the HRE and then the first Austrian Emperor, in the inner courtyard of the Hofburg ( image 5 ) by Pompeo Marchesi from the early 19th C. Surrounded by figures of Roman goddesses, he is garbed in traditional Roman robes.
Josefsplatz, Joseph square in English, is one of Vienna's most elegant squares. It's in the heart of the Hofburg district, it's over 200 years old and all its buildings are not a clash of styles: the buildings around this square are all in and centuries Late Baroque style.
In the middle of the square there's a statue of the emperor Joseph II on horseback, while the surrounding buildings are the Austrian National Library, the Spanish riding school, the Pálffy and the Pallavicini palaces.
This small square located near the Hofburg. The building is lined with very detailed statues and a statue in the center of Joseph II. It's also the murder scene where the main character in The Third Man was hit by a car.
Named after Kaiser Jopsef I, and hosting a statue in his honor, Josefsplatz is the lesser-known cousin of Michaelerpltaz. Around this square you will find the Stallburg, the National Library, and the Augustinerkirche.
Day 2 : Hofburg area
Coming from the Michaeler Platz, I walked towards the Albertina Platz, like this I arrived at the Josefplatz (Josef Square).
Josefplatz is surrounded on 3 sides by beautiful buildings which are part of the Hofburg.
Behind the statue is the Austrian National Library with the beautiful Prunksaal.
On the right hand side you can visit the Augustiner kirche (see earlier tip).
On the left side is the Winterreitschule, the famous Vienna horse school, but note that the entry to this school is not via this square (however some guide book mention this as the address of the horse school), in fact the entry is via the Michaeler Tor (gate at the Michaeler Platz (on the left side coming from the Michaeler Platz).
The statue in the middle of the square is Josef II on his horse.
And on the road side there are some more palaces, like the Pallavicini Palace and the Palffy palace, where you could make reservations for some W.A. Mozart concerts.
It is one of the most harmonious city public squares, all sluice from buildings of XVII century. On the bottom there is the Nationalbibliothek; on the right Redoutentrakt of the Hofburg that takes name from the Redoutensaal, still today knows used it for the masked dances, but also for conferences. On the left Augustinertrakt, wing of the convent of Agostinians (1773); to the center of the public square there is a statue of Giuseppe II work of F.A.Zauner (1807). On the opposite side there is the Palais Pallavicini, erected in the 1783 from F. von Hohenberg, with a door with cariatids (1786) by F.A. Zauner; nera it there is the Palais Palffy (1575) in which the rinascimental facade has been restored after the serious damages endured in the second world war: it was exhibited the prodigious child Mozart who make here the first private execution of the "Wedding of Figaro".
Named after Joseph II (hence the statue at its center). This square was once used for tournaments & training of horses.
Yes, the Spanish Riding School is just nearby.