Austria has gone to great lengths to make itself attractive. It has variety in the picturesque, eclecticism in the choice. It is artistic, commercial and industrial with a judicious discernment. The items have been sorted out with jealous care and the arrangement has taken pains to arrange them with taste. So much so that everyone had put in their best efforts and competed in charming gallantry, the Austrian section found itself under arms in a pretty parade.
There was no overpowering frontage, no tinkering facade that hurt and hurt the eyes, but something light and dapper. The exterior is made of wood stained in light red with a hint of gold, on which a garland of grapes runs in a delicate openwork frieze. The flags of the Empire falling straight from the ceiling make a kind of sky of colourful and shimmering emblems.
In the background, the city of Vienna holds a salon.
There are two capitals in Europe that rival each other in elegance and luxury: Paris and Vienna.
They both have their passionate devotees and their die-hard admirers who are just as uncompromising in their love, but we prefer to love one as much as the other. Vienna appears to us in all its enchantment and the watercolours signed by renowned artists reveal it to us as the crow flies, reveal its town halls, profile the architecture of its churches, its buildings, its public monuments.
Curious views tell us about famous sites: Schoenbrun, the Kahlenberg, the Wachau with the ruin of Durntein-Moedling Castle, the Schneeberg and the Raxalpe, which sow the seeds of their beauty around Vienna. The effigies of Beethoven, Mozart, Bruckner, Brahms, Schubert and Strauss, in marble, bronze and paint, are there as testimonies of the filial admiration that Vienna has devoted to the cult of its immortal musicians.
If Vienna wanted us to enter the sanctuary of its memories with all that is dear to its heart through the things of the past and the features of the present, it also initiates us into its intellectual life and its categories of schools whose albums and brochures eloquently speak of the intensity of the teaching in all branches of science.
Whichever way you look at it, you are stopped by the glassworks. Vases with metallic reflections that seem to have kept the fire of fusion and imprison in their sides sprays of light; Bohemian glass, M. Tschernich glass and 'glass of the world'. Tschernich and 'glasses from the Carlsbad glassworks, cut, engraved, gold-plated, radiating with yellow, mauve, green, seductive, elegant and splendid hues, a range of precious stones set in the whiteness of the crystal, all proclaiming a glass supremacy that goes back over the centuries and whose sceptre is not about to be lowered. It is art passed on by tradition, such as the fine ceramics of a particular workmanship, the "Vieux-Vienne" porcelain so sumptuously decorated with hand-painting, the stoneware with its softened, almost effaced colours, the terracotta which denotes an understanding of art which, although it is turned towards the trinket, is no less art, the bronzes with their graceful lines, the embossed copper which has a cachet.
Leather goods and furniture have always been the prerogative of Austria. Furniture factories are scattered all over Austria; they can be found wherever waterfalls supply them with free water, where labour is cheap and raw materials abundant.
They are very skilful, produce a great deal at low cost, and know how to bring out the pleasant-looking bentwood furniture from the red beech wood, which has been called Viennese furniture.
Viennese leather goods have a clear monopoly on this. It is an article of its own, from the soft leather that is placed in the form of a suitcase in the net of the carriage, to the hard leather, stamped, embossed, illuminated, and decorated with botticellist figures or generally Gothic ornamentation.
The industries are somewhat sketchy, carbonundum and electrite, in crystals, files, and grinding wheels, triumph over emery in terms of hardness; electrical insulators in porcelain defy the accumulation of volts; a stand of appliances and products of the dairy still dear to the Viennese; a batch of musical instruments remind us, if need be, that the waltz flourishes on the banks of the blue Danube. The Tyrol has exported an old Tyrolean interior. This is an always interesting re-enactment with its rough furniture carved from wood, its actors draped in authentic costumes, this archaism that is reminiscent of centuries gone by and which contrasts so violently with the banality of our houses and the monotony of our clothes.
A union of merchants, industrialists and hoteliers, which has ramifications in the country, invites tourists by an active propaganda of panoramas and brochures to pilgrim towards the splendour of the Austrian sites.
The exhibition of Austria, in its neat, informative and attractive ensemble, is well suited to arouse curiosity and to direct our sympathies towards this flourishing country, rich in industry, manufactures, mines, forests and vineyards, and whose Habsburg dynasty, with its centuries-old coat of arms, bears the heavy weight of a glory that was once brilliant, but overshadowed by the melancholy and pain of misfortune.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905