Domenico Martinelli, Christian Alexander Oedtl
In 1683, during the Siege of Vienna, the Harrach Estate, which had been in the possession of the Auersperg family since 1658, was lost to fire. Ferdinand Bonaventura von Harrach bought back the ruin and commissioned a new palace. Domenico Martinelli, of Rome, and Christian Alexander Oedtl planned a building fronting both the square, known as the Freyung, and Herrengasse. The client was particularly proud of the grand staircase made of ‘Kaiserstein’, a durable limestone from the nearby Leitha range.
Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, the Harrachs’ architect of choice, designed a pavilion for Ferdinand Bonaventura’s son Aloys Thomas at the tip of the garden facing the Freyung.
Franz Ernst Harrach arranged to have Franz Schönthaler remodel the facade and, to make room for the art collection, the interiors; the work lasted from 1844 until 1850. During World War II the palace and its garden were severely damaged; the collection was kept safe in salt mines in the Salzkammergut region west of Vienna.
After the war the palace was restored to its baroque state. It remained in the family’s possession until 1980, when it was sold to the City of Vienna. From 1994 to 2003 the ‘Kunsthistorisches Museum’ presented exhibitions here.