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The Hall of Ceremonies served not only as the second or Large Antechamber to Emperor Franz Stephan’s apartments but also as a ceremonial hall for family celebrations such as christenings, name-days and birthdays, weddings of members of the court household who were of noble birth, and for court banquets. From here the imperial family could enter the oratories of the palace chapel to attend mass.

Dating from around 1755, the décor of the room includes the magnificent rocaille work, enhanced by sculptural ornamentation on the vaulting. The gilt stucco decoration on the white-panelled walls was the work of Albert Bolla, who was also responsible for the stuccowork in the Great Gallery. The room was formerly known as the ‘Battaglia Hall’, after the decoration on the vaulting in the form of spears, trophies, banners and other appurtenances of war, a symbolic representation of the power of the Monarchy.

The Hall of Ceremonies is most remarkable for the monumental paintings commissioned by Maria Theresa. The cycle of paintings represents a socio-political and family event that took place in 1760, the marriage of Joseph, the heir to the throne, to Isabella of Parma, who was a member of the royal house of Bourbon and

the granddaughter of Louis XV. Like most of the marriages entered into by Maria Theresa’s children, this was a calculated political move on the empress’s part, designed to ensure France’s support for Austria. The largest painting shows the entry of the Bourbon princess on 5 October against the backdrop of the Vienna Hofburg. The other paintings show the marriage ceremony in the Augustinian Church, the wedding banquet in the Large Antechamber of the Hofburg and the nuptial dinner and serenata in the Ballroom.

The paintings display a remarkable wealth of detail in their depiction of the buildings, the people and their clothing, and even the tableware. The cycle includes what is probably the most famous portrait of Empress Maria Theresa, resplendent in a sumptuous gown of costly Mechlin bobbin lace.

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