Palais Epstein from The Perspective of Art History
Palais Epstein is the prototype of a special feature of the Vienna Ringstrasse: the interest-earning “tenement palace“, which is to document the owners’ social standing while - in line with the capitalist zeitgeist - at the same time ensuring a return on investment by offering apartments and business premises for rent. Designed in the style of Strict Historicism, its block-like exterior with its emphasis on horizontal lines structuring the façade breathes noble reticence and in so doing reflects the personality of its owner.
In the interior, the bel étage - the first floor accommodating the suite inhabited by the Epstein family - features furnishings and interior decoration of a splendour commensurate with the economic stature of its owner, one of Vienna’s wealthiest citizens. The works of art decorating the central hall - the ballroom - are inspired by designs the architect Theophil Hansen and the painter Carl Rahl had originally intended for the Grand Duke of Oldenburg’s palace but which were not executed there as the cost was felt to be prohibitive. In a way, the ballroom hall may be taken as a symbol of the triumph of the financial power acquired by the economically successful bourgeoisie over the sovereign power of princes.