Monument question in late Habsburg Austria : a critical introduction to Max Dvořák's Denkmalpflege
Blower, Jonathan Barnabas
The present thesis is a critical introduction to a body of writings on heritage conservation by the Czech-born art historian Max Dvořák (1874–1921). From 1905 onwards, Dvořák was both professor of art history at the University of Vienna and Conservator General at the state institution responsible for heritage conservation in Austria: the ‘Royal and Imperial Central Commission for the Research and Preservation of Artistic and Historical Monuments’ (est. 1850). His published and archival texts on the subject are presented here for the first time in English translation. In this sense, the thesis follows the model of existing scholarship on the visual arts in Vienna around 1900, namely the combined English translations and critical introductions to the writings of Camillo Sitte (Collins & Collins, 1986), Otto Wagner (Mallgrave, 1988) and Alois Riegl (Forster & Ghirardo, 1982). A translation-based approach to foreign textual sources is essential to cross-cultural understanding in the study of art and architectural history, particularly in the case of German, which is no longer accessible to the great majority of scholars working in these fields. As an introduction to Dvořák’s Denkmalpflege, this thesis provides the historical context necessary for an informed reading of the texts and, on this basis, evaluates his considerable contribution to the conservation of Austrian cultural heritage. The institutional history of the Central Commission and the emergence of modern conservation theory around the turn of the century are outlined as the preconditions of Dvořák’s activity, which included inventorization, institutional reform, published propaganda and a number of case-specific polemics. His responses to conservation issues in Vienna and Split are analyzed in detail as representative case studies from the centre and periphery of the empire, where modern conservationists were fighting a battle on two fronts against the incursions of modernity on the one hand and the destructive practices of nineteenth-century restoration on the other. Dvořák’s close collaboration with the Austrian heir apparent Franz Ferdinand is then investigated, followed by a critique of his reaction to the devastation of the First World War. In each case, it is argued that the state administration of cultural heritage in late Habsburg Austria, with its diverse peoples, languages and histories, was an inherently political issue and part of a cultural effort to preserve the empire itself.