Medallions & Busts
The Schwind foyer, originally called the Promenadensaal, owes its name to the painter Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871) and is one of the preserved, original parts of the Opera House. Intended from the start as an intermission room, this hall, decorated with 22-carat gold leaf, is beholden to the neo-renaissance style, just like the basic architectural idea of the building.
The original chandeliers refer to a historical detail at the time of the State Opera’s construction: since the electrification of the Opera House did not take place until almost 20 years after its opening, the chandeliers were originally designed for gas lighting. As a corresponding relic of this former function, a small wheel can be seen on the side of each lamp with which the gas supply could be regulated.
The connection of the House of Habsburg to the arts, especially music, is also evident in the program of the design of the Schwindfoyer: Above each of the mirrors on the two front sides is a fireplace medallion featuring a prominent historical ruler of the imperial family: Maria Theresa and Leopold I. The medallions were created by the German sculptor Carl August Sommer (1839-1921) (a third Mozart medallion in the former Emperor’s Hall was lost after the war). The text below the medallions reflects the respective mottos.
The six busts on pedestals in the hall are dedicated to former directors of the Opera House, who were also very successful as conductors. The original bust of Gustav Mahler, designed by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), was melted down during World War II and later replaced by a copy (donated by Mahler’s widow). The latest bust shows Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) and was unveiled in 2014, shortly before the conductor’s death.
During the preparations of the 150th anniversary of the Opera House, the Schwind foyer was completely renovated and the original color scheme restored.