VIENNA May 3 Vienna's Stadtpalais
Liechtenstein, the city palace that launched a revival of Rococo
in the mid 19th century, will offer public tours for the first
time on Friday after an extensive face-lift.
The late 17th century palace was once the main residence of
the princely family of Liechtenstein, one of Vienna's richest
families considered to be at the cutting edge of art and
architecture, before they moved to the tiny Alpine principality.
The Baroque building, which was revamped in the 1840s in the
neo-Rococo style, was damaged during a bombing raid in World War
II and when an Allied aircraft crashed into its roof in the
final days of the war but it remained standing.
It was briefly patched up in 1970 and the Austrian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs used the space for offices with the gilded
ornamentation hidden behind fake walls and under raised floors
until restoration started in 2008.
The 100 million euro ($130 million) revamp returns the
private structure to its pre-war glory and opulence, with
plastered ceilings, gold leafing, and Thonet wood floors.
"The rebuilding was like a puzzle for the architects," said
a palace spokeswoman. "We only had fragments and many of the
original chandeliers had to be tracked down in basements of art
dealers around Vienna."
While some of the renovated building will be kept as private
living quarters, the public will get a look at many of its
gilded Rococo rooms, its high Roman Baroque architecture and a
selection of neo-Classical art.
The project was paid for by Prince Hans-Adam II whose family
has ruled the 160 square km (62 square miles) principality of
Liechtenstein since 1699 although Vienna remained their primary
residence until the 1938 political annexation of Austria by
The family is credited with transforming the principality
from a rural backwater into a wealthy banking centre, making the
country's 36,000 inhabitants some of the world's richest, with
national output per head of $141,000 in 2012.
In addition to the Stadtpalais, Prince Hans-Adam owns the
lavish sister garden palace just outside the city centre - where
he keeps his collection of Old Masters including Rubens,
Amerling and Waldmueller - as well as the family's namesake
castle in the Vienna Woods.
Liechtenstein is the only monarchy in Europe to still have
any real executive power and last year voters rejected a
proposal to abolish the ruling prince's right to veto the
results of popular referendums.
Crown Prince Alois, who was given the task of running the
day-to-day government by his father in 2004, said the monarchy
would quit the country if the veto were removed, undermining
stability and affluence for all.
($1 = 0.7676 euros)
(Reporting by Derek Brooks, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)