The Chamber of Art and Curiosities («Kunst- und Wunderkammer») is a cabinet of curiosities created by Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria in the 16th century. Ferdinand II, son of Emperor Ferdinand I, was one of history’s most prominent collectors of art.
The cultured humanist from the House of Habsburg accommodated his world-famous collections in a museum built specifically for that purpose (1572−1583, supplement 1589), making Schloss Ambras Innsbruck (Ambras Castle) the oldest museum in the world.
As the only Renaissance Kunstkammer of its kind to have been preserved at its original location, the Chamber of Art and Curiosities represents an unrivalled cultural monument.
Representing an excellent example of a late Renaissance encyclopedic collection of its genre, it continues to be displayed at Ambras Castle in Innsbruck, the same setting since its inception.
Ferdinand II, like many other rulers of the Renaissance, was interested in promoting the arts and sciences. He spent considerable time and money on his unique collection and converted the medieval Ambras Castle into a contemporary palace to display his possessions.
Beside the «chamber of art and curiosities» Ambras Castle is home to a famous collection of armouries and early modern weapons feature masterpieces of the European armourer’s art from the time of Emperor Maximilian I to Emperor Leopold I.
The «Glassammlung Strasser» (Strasser Collection of Glass) boasts precious glassware from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The «Habsburger Porträtgalerie» (Habsburg Portrait Gallery) laid out on three floors is open to visitors in summer.
The paintings include works by famous painters such as Hans Burgkmair, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velázquez, and others.
Read more at
Schlossstraße 20, 6020 Innsbruck
daily, 10 a.m. — 5 p.m.
Admission till half an hour before closing time.
Closed during November!
Tel.: +43 1 525 24- 4802
E: info. firstname.lastname@example.org
About of Chamber of Art and Curiosities
The Chambers of Art and Curiosities of the Renaissance are encyclopaedic, universal collections that encompass the entire body of knowledge available during their era.
The collection, therefore, contains not only outstanding artworks such as the Figurine of Death, but also scientific objects such as the Centrepiece with Compass, objects from far-off lands such as the «Ryukyu Bowl,» rare products of nature, portraits of people thought to be «miracles» such as the Hirsute Man, and last but not least fascinating games and unusual musical instruments.
The collection at Ambras is the only chamber of art from the Mannerist era to have been preserved at its original location, and is thus of inestimable value. The present-day display follows the intentions of Archduke Ferdinand insofar as it has been possible to do so.
Ferdinand presented his collection in 18 ceiling-high cabinets Objects made of the same material—such as ivory, wood or coral—were united in the same case, irregardless of their origins or theme.
The cases themselves were painted on their insides, with the respective colours forming an aesthetically pleasing unity with the displayed materials: this gave rise to combinations including gold on blue, wood on red, stone on green, etc.
The Collection of Chamber of Art and Curiosities
A variety of uncommon objects are on display, including a woodcarving of «Death» by Hans Leinberger, goblets, coral collections and artifacts, glass figures, centerpieces, mechanical toys, clocks and various instruments.
Also, Asiatica of the period are included with a suit of samurai armor, a Ryukyu bowl, and a silk painting from China.
The Ambras collection contains a number of unique portraits, and some of the subjects were perceived at the time as «Wonder of Nature». The painters are not known. Giants and dwarfs, people with hirsutism and others, are shown, including:
Vlad III the Impaler’s depiction was painted about one century after his reign and represents one of his earliest portraits.
It is intended not only to show him as a ruler but also to be a «psychogram of evil».
This portrait represents a Hungarian hussar, by tradition Gregor Baci, who apparently survived a piercing injury with a lance to the right side of his face.
According to tradition, the man portrayed is the Hungarian nobleman Gregor Baci, who was healed after having a lance pierce his right eye during a tournament.
In the inventory of 1621 he is identified as an Hungarian hussar, who suffered this injury while fighting against the Turks.
In the case of portraits of unusual people the interest of the collector, Archduke Ferdinand II, was not focussed on the painting as a work of art but rather on the person portrayed, his special destiny and his deeds.
These were simply the qualities that made him a celebrity and raised him above the level of the average person.
This desire to preserve the whole person and his deeds for posterity was, of course, also the motivation for collecting weapons and armour of famous rulers in his heroes armoury.
A man with disabilities
This is an unusual and unique late 16th-century painting of a man with a physical disability. In typical portrait-style he gazes at the viewer, while the top of his head is covered by a hat.
A fashionable neck piece separates his head from his naked body, which lies chest-down on a dark green sheet. His limbs appear withered and useless.
Originally the portrait was partially obscured by a sheet of red paper, which the observer would lift to reveal the subject’s body. Observers indicated that they were shocked.
The man was probably a jester at a court. An extensive analysis of the painting has been published.
The collection has a painting of Pedro Gonzalez (Petrus Gonsalvus) as well as other people who display an extreme form of hirsutism, also called Ambras syndrome in 1933 in reference to its depiction at this collection.
The life of Pedro Gonzalez has been well chronicled as he became famous during his lifetime on account of his condition.
Born in 1537 in Tenerife, he first came to the court of Henry II, King of France, who sent him to the court of Margaret of Parma, regent of the Netherlands.
He got married there and some of his children were also afflicted with hypertrichosis universalis and painted.
His family became an object of medical inquiry by Ulisse Aldrovandi among others. Gonzalez eventually settled in Italy.
Chambers of Armour
Archduke Ferdinand II was the first to combine his Chambers of Armour as a single collection, according to a clear concept. It was his intent to emphasise the historic role of the Habsburgs and commemorate the outstanding deeds of famous individuals.
Like nobody before him, he systematically purchased armour, weapons and portraits of famous military commanders.
For the first time ever in the history of collecting, he also took into account aesthetic criteria such as light and colours when deciding how to present them. Sensationally novel was also his illustrated inventory—the first-ever museum catalogue.
The present-day arrangement, though not identical with the original presentation, attempts to make visible the objectives that Archduke Ferdinand had set.
The highlights include rare suits of tournament armour, ornamental armour for courtly ceremonies, the armour of famous military commanders and, last but not least, that of Ferdinand II.
There is also a Turk Chamber, which documents the fear of the Turks and the enthusiasm for the Orient that both existed during the 16th century.
Habsburg portrait gallery
The Portrait Gallery contains over 200 likenesses, including paintings by Lukas Cranach, Titian, Anton van Dyck and Diego Velázquez.
Most of the Habsburgs and numerous other rulers are represented by portraits—including Emperor Maximilian I, Emperor Charles V, King Phillip II of Spain, the young Maria Theresia and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Of special interest are the numerous portraits of children.
No family influenced the history of Europe over the centuries to the extent that the Habsburgs did. From the 15th to the early 20th century, they provided numerous Emperors and Kings and were related either by blood or by marriage to nearly every important European dynasty.
The portrait gallery offers not only a walk through the history of a European ruling house, but also affords the viewer a unique overview of courtly portraiture from the late Gothic era to Classicism.
The Portrait Gallery is located in the Upper Castle, where the living quarters were during the time of Ferdinand II.
Learn more on the
Chamber of Art and Curiosities — Visitors ' comments
- This renaissance castle in the outskirts of Innsbruck was the residence of Archduke Ferdinand II. He was an avid collector of fine art and had also a very interesting armour collection. It is a must-see for art connoiseurs.
- We spent the afternoon in the Scholss Ambras, Chamber of Art and Curiosities, and it was great. A lot to see, the exquisite collection of armory, unusual objects of art and curiosities, magnificent collection of portraits, and the lovely Spanish Hall.
- It is a collection of paintings with 'abnormal' people on it. Some were really weird! There was one painting of a man that lived with a lance through his head… eeks!
- There’s evidence that a castle of some description existed as early as the 11th century, but the building we see today dates from the 16th century. It was, in turn, made into a museum by Archduke Ferdinand II from the outset. The Wunderkammer (Gallery of Wonders) contains a slightly bizarre collection of exotic objects — coral, ivory, a rhinoceros' horn and other artifacts brought back to Europe by explorers. The top half of the palace is the Habsburg’s Portrait Gallery: an awe-inspiring collection of works by Cranach, Mor, Titian, Van Dyck and Velásquez, among others. It’s quite an extraordinary collection, housed in a relatively small room — eyes and faces really do peer down at you. And there’s a mammoth collection of armoury on display. The Spanish Room is a wonderfully decorated function room of the period.