Originally Empress Elisabeth’s apartments were accessed via the Eagle Stairs, which connected the Leopoldine Wing and the Amalia Wing. When the Leopoldine Wing was converted into the offices of the Federal President in 1946 access to the Imperial Apartments was blocked up.
The paintings in this room take us back to the eighteenth century, to the time of Maria Theresa, the great-great-grandmother of Franz Joseph. She reigned from 1740 to 1780 and was married to Franz Stephan of Lorraine, who was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1745 as Franz I. The couple had 16 children, of whom ten survived into adulthood. The four exhibited paintings show Maria Theresa’s children performing on stage.
As a rule, the imperial couple’s children were encouraged to make music, dance or take part in dramatic entertainments at family celebrations such as birthdays and name-days or weddings. The painting between the windows shows a scene with the three youngest children of Maria Theresa – Ferdinand,
Maria Antonia (the future French queen Marie Antoinette), and Maximilian – from the pastoral ballet Le Triomphe de l’Amour by Pietro Metastasio and Florian Leopold Gassmann that was performed on the occasion of the second marriage of their eldest brother Emperor Joseph II to Josepha of Bavaria in January 1765. The painting hanging opposite shows their elder sisters Maria Josepha, Maria Elisabeth, Maria Amalia and Maria Karolina singing and dancing in the operetta Il parnasso confuso in the roles of Apollo and the Three Muses. The music was composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio.
The dramatic works represented in the two other paintings have not yet been identified. The right-hand picture depicts Maria Theresa’s eldest children, including the future Emperor Joseph II.