"A milestone in the art of restoration"
This year, the remarkable renovation project completed at Liechtenstein CITY PALACE in 2013 celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Traditional Viennese firm J. & L. Lobmeyr was one of those involved, undertaking impressive restoration work on the Palace's magnificent chandeliers between 2008 and 2013. We had the pleasure of inviting Johannes Rath, one of the firm's Managing Partners, for an interview.
Liechtenstein Palaces: Revitalization of the CITY PALACE is considered a leading example of historical monument preservation in Vienna. How would you personally describe the renovation? What particular aspects come to mind, looking back?
Johannes Rath: It started with restoration of one particular chandelier, namely the chandelier in the Square Room. The remaining chandeliers had been placed with other companies in Vienna; the scope of the project would have been too much for the capacities of just one enterprise. We were delighted that, in being assigned the Square Room chandelier, not only were we entrusted with working on the most magnificent chandelier, but that this work also fitted in very well with our skillset. I was also especially gratified when, during the course of the project, we had the privilege of being additionally entrusted with the other chandeliers. As a result, not only were we able to contribute our know-how, but we also had the opportunity to learn from the process of collaboration with restorers and conservators and establish new contacts with other service providers in the sector, with whom we have had the pleasure of a continued collaborative association ever since.
The chandelier in the Square Room of the CITY PALACE.
During the Second World War, chandeliers in the CITY PALACE were removed and later, after the war, they were sold. During the course of the renovation work, some component parts were discovered in the possession of Viennese antiques dealers, and with the help of historical photographs, these were reassembled and the missing parts added. Is this kind of restoration work undertaken very much these days?
We regularly have restoration projects that require a degree of detective work, or projects where, just by chance, we come across exciting details of an item's history.
The CITY PALACE project was unique in terms of the depth of engagement during restoration with the history of the items in question. On top of that, the scope of the project was staggering. Because it was unique both in terms of scale and attention to detail, in international terms it undoubtedly constitutes an enduring milestone in the art of restoration.
Through your work, it has been possible to reconstruct the chandeliers based on historical models; for example, two of the chandeliers in the CITY PALACE have been recreated from scratch. What challenges did this task present?
With the chandeliers in the Bouquet Room, very little of the original chandeliers remained. The greatest challenge was "filling the gaps", which meant reconstructing the parts that had not been preserved.
It was also an art in itself, when analysing an old black-and-white photograph, to simply distinguish between the parts constituting elements of the wall decoration and those that made up the chandelier. I should add that, with a project like this, usually the most difficult aspect is convincing clients of the need for attention to accurate and detailed research. Here, however, this was not a problem, since the declared objective was to deliver the best-possible work, which is precisely what we always aim for.
See the chandelier in the Bouquet Room of the CITY PALACE for yourself and visit the
special guided tour 'Just look up. The chandeliers of J. & L. Lobmeyr in the Liechtenstein CITY PALACE'.
Around 24 bronze and crystal chandeliers had to be restored. Which chandelier in the Palace did you personally find the most impressive?
Every chandelier in the Palace has its own history and also tells an anecdote or two. But for me, the most impressive chandelier is undoubtedly the one in the Square Room. Firstly, because it was the first item we worked on as part of the project and, secondly, because it gave us the opportunity to deploy many of our core skills, such as surface design and glass cutting.
What are the biggest differences between chandeliers then and now?
For us, there are no differences at all! Not only are we famous for delivering custom work, but we also want to deliver the best work possible. Today, so-called "chandeliers" are frequently made with the aim of "dazzling" for just a couple of years, and then falling out of fashion. For us, that is not good enough. When asked on this topic, I tend to say: "You can't beat the quality of the past ...".
Looking back, what makes you particularly proud?
Being able to say that we restored the chandeliers in the Palace without having to specify which ones exactly. That fills me with immense pride.
Pictures: Fotomanufaktur Grünwald
SPECIAL GUIDED TOUR - THE CHANDELIERS OF J. & L. LOBMEYR
If you'd like to see the impressive chandeliers of the CITY PALACE, as well as find out more about J. & L. Lobmeyr's work, why not book one of our special guided tours