Aristocratic Lifestyle Exhibition and Helikon Library

Aristocratic Lifestyle Exhibition and Helikon Library

The 18 original or reconstructed rooms of the exhibition show the aristocratic lifestyle of the 18th and 19th centuries. The most valuable part of the palace is Hungary’s sole intact aristocratic private library.

The Baroque palace built by Christopher Festetics in 1745 acquired its present form between 1883 and 1887 after being enlarged several times. Between 1799 and 1801 George Festetics I had a library wing built for the books which the family had collected from the beginnings. Now the collection consists of more than 80.000 library units. The original Neoclassical furniture of the library is also valuable.

The survival of the collection was due to the fact that the commander of the Russian troops invading the town of Keszthely during World War II realized the value of the books and built a partition wall to separate the library and the adjacent rooms. The most precious artefacts were then accumulated in these rooms, and thus they survived the war on site, which is unique in contrast to the destroyed or stolen furnishings of the other palaces in Hungary. The original artefacts can, therefore, be seen at the exhibition now.

The interior design of the rooms which remained intact originates in the 1880’s. The artefacts are set against the background of Slavonian oak wall panels, fireplace frames, ceilings and doors. One of the most significant rooms is the Oak Staircase with its original family portrait gallery which is unique in Hungary.

The rooms of the exhibition pay tribute to the most prominent members of the Festetics family. George Festetics I (1755–1819) founded Georgikon, the first agricultural college in Europe. Tassilo Festetics II (1850–1933), who got the title of Prince in 1911, played an important role in the improvement of Hungarian horse-breeding and horse racing. By marrying the English Princess Mary Hamilton, he got in connection with Western European royal families. The dowry Mary brought to the palace included paintings, sculptures, furniture, books and scores, which also enrich the exhibition.

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