With its countless pictures of roles, figurines, scene depictions, theatre costumes, (photographic) portraits as well as sketches for stage decorations, costumes and theatre curtains, the theatre collection comprises one of the most extensive of the Wien Museum inventories. It conveys a vivid impression of Viennese theatre life since the 17th century, whereby the collection focus is on the 19th century.
The foundation for the Theatre Collection was laid by Karl Glossy, from 1882 the custodian and later head of the City Collections. He was instrumental in the museum receiving the furniture and fittings from Franz Grillparzer’s flat as well as memorabilia of Ferdinand Raimund. Soon thereafter, these items were followed by watercolour paintings commissioned by the City of Vienna by Gustav Klimt and Franz Matsch, showing the interior of the old Imperial Theatre on Michaelerplatz shortly before its closure in 1888. Further highlights from the early decades of the collection include a splendid Makart painting of the popular actress Charlotte Wolter as well as an oil painting of the folk actress Therese Krones by Joseph Lavos.
Among the most important acquisitions in the 20th century are Johann Nestroy’s bedroom, the photo archives (stage photos) by the press and theatre photographers Bruno Völkel and Anton Doliwa as well as the theatre collection of Fritz Brukner. It consists of graphic works, drawings and sketches by the theatre satirist Johann Christian Schoeller, costume designs by Josef Trentsenky, and countless portraits of famous dancers, musicians, actors and actresses, writers and composers; in many cases, the items are unique to Viennese theatrical history. As the film industry grew in importance in the 20th century, star photos of movie actors and actresses came to the museum in increasing numbers.
One important aspect of the collection is that of music theatre, and above all here Viennese Operetta. This genre is documented by pictures of roles played, portraits and memorabilia of stars such as Alexander Girardi, Karl Streitmann and Marie Geistinger, but also due to portraits and memorabilia of significant operetta composers such as Franz von Suppé or Johann Strauss the Younger. Further collection focal points are devoted to famous female dancers (such as Fanny Elssler or Marie Taglioni) and important dramatists (like Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Arthur Schnitzler or Karl Kraus).