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.
Lovers of libraries and books will think they've died and gone to heaven , so splendid is the Prunksaal, the main hall of Vienna's National Library. The largest Baroque library in Europe, this really is a temple to the written word, 77 metres long with pairs of marble columns framing the enormous domed centre space like the sanctuary of some great cathedral. Magnificent frescoes on the vaulted ceilings, marble statuary, wonderful curving spiral staircases leading to the upper stacks, rich leather and gilt on the bindings on hundreds of thousands of books all pierced with shafts of light from the high lunette windows - it is a fantastic sight.
Special exhibitions are staged here - Cookery Through the Ages was the theme of the one I saw - drawing on the library's marvellous collection of books and related material that dates back to the 14th century. Having been built to house the court library, the collection passed into public ownership in 1920, since when the collection has grown to enormous proportions, far too big for it all to be housed here in the Prunksaal, but this is the showpiece of the library without a doubt.
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.
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".
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.
Day 2 : Josefstadt
It was really nice to walk around in Josefstadt. It was very quiet, almost no tourists, maybe because it is a bit of the beaten path.
There were some beautifully decorated houses and palaces, like for example at nr 53 in the Lange gasse which beautiful statues on the iron fence.
There are also some remarkable courtyards with small houses (Lange gasse nr 29)
So it is really worth to come here for a small sightseeing walk.
This is a public square at Hofburg Palace is named after Emperor Joseph II. No wonder there was a huge equestrian statue of Joseph II in the centre of the square, been there since 1807. The statue is similar to the one on Capitoline Hill in Rome. The statue depicts Joseph II dressed in a toga and a laurel wreath. The Habsburgs believed they were descendants of the ancient Roman Emperors.
What I noticed next, was the exterior decoration on the roof with Attika figures from 1726.
One statue is of Pallas Athene riding on a quadriga above the main entrance. On the LH side is Atlas, supporting the celestial globe, flanked by Astronomy and Astrology, and on the opposite side, Gaia with the terrestrial globe, flanked by allegories of Geometry and Geography. They look really good!
Do have a peek through the windows at the Imperial Stables, which once housed around 900 Lipizzaner horses. It was built in the 16th century and at one stage housed the art collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm between 1614 and 1662. It was later when converted to stables for the Hofburg. Smart stables surrounding a large courtyad with arcades on three level, the home of the Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner Museum resides here.
Josefplatz was a location used in the film The Third Man (1949).
Also, it was was selected for the 5 euro Austrian euro collectors' coins.
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.
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.
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.