The summer apartments possessed the advantages of having direct access to the garden and of being far cooler than the rooms on the principal floor or piano nobile.
The sequence of four rooms on the garden side of the palace was decorated in 1769 by Johann Wenzel Bergl (1718–1789), by whose name the apartments are known today. Specializing in mural decorations ‘in the Indian, American or Japanese style’, Bergl here created an idealized and elaborately composed representation of nature featuring exotic landscapes and idyllic garden scenery. A distinctive element of these murals is the way they successfully make the transition between wall and ceiling dissolve: exotic plants extend their branches out into the room in a skilful exploitation of the rounded curves of the vaulted ceiling.
The underlying concept of the artistic design emphasizes the functional significance of the sequence of rooms: the murals in the first room, which served as an antechamber, show natural scenery virtually untouched by human hand. In the tropical vegetation exotic water fowl disport themselves. Spatial accents are added merely with painted portals, while the twining vegetation snakes upwards, dissolving the transition of wall to ceiling.
In the second room, which probably served as a reception room, painted silk draperies, peacocks and baskets of fruit allude to courtly culture. The elaborate arrangements of fruit contrast the opulence of nature with its transience.
In the third room, used by the dowager empress as her bedchamber, the painting reveals a vista of a formal Baroque garden symbolizing princely power and dominion over nature.
Echoing the garden at Schönbrunn with its filigree wooden pavilions, the painting in the last and most private room, which was probably used as a writing cabinet, suggests the inside of a shady pergola.
In addition to these apartments for the empress along the eastern garden façade, Bergl decorated two other suites of rooms: a sequence of four rooms in the East Wing facing the Privy Garden for her daughter Archduchess Maria Elisabeth, and three rooms on the western garden façade for her youngest son Archduke Maximilian.
The suites decorated by Bergl are known by other names in the older literature which derive from the individuals who occupied them in the second half of the nineteenth century. Maria Theresa’s summer apartment is also known as the Goëss Apartments, after a lady-in-waiting of Empress Elisabeth. The rooms once occupied by Archduchess Maria Elisabeth are also known as the Gisela Apartments after the eldest daughter of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth. The sequence of rooms along the eastern façade is also known as the Crown Prince Apartments after their last occupant, Crown Prince Rudolf.
The landscape rooms at Schönbrunn, the original artistic quality of which was revealed by restoration work carried out in the 2000s, are among the most precious ensembles of rooms in the palace, without doubt the equal of the state and private rooms on the piano nobile with their rare timbers, East Asian lacquer work and porcelain.