The Collection Today
With more than 30,000 engravings, the Graphic Art Collection of the Göttweig Abbey is one of the largest private collections of graphic art in Austria. The predominant part of the holdings stems from the Renaissance and Baroque era and includes works by german, dutch, italian, french and english masters. The collecting activity continues up to the present day with the acquisition of historical etchings and engravings and selected modern pieces. Since the 1960s different parts of the collection have been presented in yearly exhibitions to a broader audience and the results of the intensive research, especially by the long-time curator a.o. Univ. Prof. Dr. Gregor M. Lechner OSB, were made accessible in the accompanying catalogue publications. In the summer of 2002 the holdings of the Graphical Collection were entrusted to the Department of Image Science of the Danube University Krems (Austria) for research and teaching purposes.
Early collecting activities
The Göttweig Abbey was founded in 1083. The holdings of the Graphic Collection stem from the acquisitions of various members of the monastery since the 15th century. A collection of etchings is first recorded in an archive notice from the year 1612, were various " small copper engravings " are mentioned which were acquired by Abbot Gregor I. Schedler (reg. 1604-10) for decorative purposes. The following Abbots added more pieces to the growing collection. Abbot Gregor II. Heller (reg. 1648-69) for instance, ordered the well known panorama of the Danube Valley from Matthäus Küsel and bought several hundred engravings.
The Collector Abott Bessel
The true founder of the collection is Abbot Gottfried Bessel (gov. 1714-49), who was an diplomatic agent, scientist and patron. Amongst other things he ordered the famous series of engravings by Salomon Kleiner (1700-1761), which depicts in 15 copper engravings the newly designed baroque monastery complex by Johan Lucas von Hildebrandt (1668-1745). The systematic acquistions by Abbot Bessel enlarged the former collection by 20,000 pieces. Bessels preserved correspondence shows, that he was intensively in contact with several agents and institutions at home and abroad to buy and exchange engravings. The cohesive collection of engravings assembled by Bessel makes the collection a fascinating object of study in baroque patronage.