- Fischer von Erlach, Johann Bernhard
- (1656–1723).Of all the master architects of the Austrian Baroque, Fischer von Erlach’s work is the most closely associated with the ascent of Austrian Habsburg power during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Fischer was born in Styria. Von Erlach was the name of his mother’s first husband, which her son appropriated for himself. His biological father’s name was Fischer; he supervised his son’s early efforts as a sculptor. Beginning in 1670, Fischer von Erlach spent many years in Italy, where he developed contacts with such masters as Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) and studied the techniques and style of Francesco Borromini (1599–1667). He settled in Vienna around 1686, where he worked on one of the city’s most famous monuments, the Plague Column (Pestsäule) in the First District. He also labored in other provinces of the Habsburg Empire, among them his native Styria and the Bohemian lands. Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705) engaged him as a court architect–engineer and as architectural tutor to his son, the future Emperor Joseph I (1678–1711). He returned to the position of inspector of imperial buildings under Joseph I in 1705 and was reconfirmed in the position by Joseph’s brother and successor, Emperor Charles VI (1685–1740). Although Joseph I made Fischer his inspector of imperial buildings in 1705, the architect had long been disappointed with the few and paltry commissions that came his way. Only after 1710 did he become a favorite among the rich and powerful of the Habsburg Empire.A close student of the buildings and monuments of classical Rome—Fischer’s scholarly Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture (1721) included the first general treatment of the subject—his fluent manipulation of imperial themes from antiquity reinforced the public images of the imperial family and the nobility, who often were able to pay Fischer more than the Habsburgs themselves. To all of this he added French and more generally Baroque elements, thereby giving his work a far more eclectic character than that of his equally important contemporary, Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. His exteiors could be boldly fanciful and monumental at the same time; the plans that he drew up in 1714 for the Church of St. Charles Borromeo consciously brought together classical, Near Eastern, and even orientalizing motifs. His best-realized achievements were his interiors, which bring longitudinal and latitudinal spaces into harmony. The design of the State Hall (Prunksaal) of the Austrian National Library is a conspicuous example. Other buildings Fischer planned in Vienna were the winter palace of Eugene of Savoy, the graceful Bohemian Chancellery building, and the Trautson Palace. He also did the initial designs for Schönbrunn Palace, the suburban residence and retreat of the imperial family. His plan, however, was revised heavily before the complex was erected in the 18th century.See also Art.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.