Knights from Imperial Austria: treasures from the State of Styria

9 June 1998-11 October 1998

From the 15th through to the 17th century, Austria, and particularly the Austrian state of Styria, stood as Europe’s bastion of defence against invasions from the East. Styria and its armoury defended the Holy Roman Empire for 230 years in a war that began with the fall on Constantinople in 1453 and culminated in the defeat of the Islamic Ottoman Turks at the siege of Vienna in 1683.

As a gateway between East and West, this strategic region was forced to defend its land, culture, and religion against outside invasion.

During this period, Austria was one of the major cultural, political, and religious centres of Europe. Knights from Imperial Austria: Treasures of Art, Arms and Armour from the State of Styria, at the Powerhouse Museum chronicled the fascinating history of Austrian culture through art, arms and armour.

The exhibition included more than 300 works from the Landeszeughaus in Graz, Austria, and from private lenders. Graz’s strategic location and the presence of abundant iron ore, a critical raw material, contributed to the Landeszeughaus’ importance as a repository for arms and armour. Imperial Austria examined the dynamic relationship between the classical fine art of the period and the art of arms and armour making.

The Landeszeughaus was the only armoury in Austria that survived the period of disarmament following the Ottoman wars. Styrian officials were granted special permission to keep their armoury as a symbol of the region’s struggle for survival, as a repositary of their art works, and as a monument to the bravery of their ancestors.

Imperial Austria showcased a wide range of objects, including Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque field, tournament, parade and horse armour, weapons, rare paintings and sculpture, prints, engravings, and meticulously crafted firearms. The exhibition also included some 76 suits of armour from the 16th and 17th centuries, and an entire ensemble of horse armour on a full size horse mannequin.

The objects in the exhibition were graciously lent by the Government of the State of Styria from the Steiermaerkisches Landesmuseum Joanneum in Graz, Austria and private lenders. The exhibition Chairman was The Honourable Dr Peter Schachner-Blazizek, Deputy Governor of the State of Styria.