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date: 23 October 2019

Swieten, Gottfried (Bernhard), Baron vanlocked

  • Edward Olleson


(b Leiden, Oct 29, 1733; d Vienna, March 29, 1803). Dutch music patron, active in Austria. He was the son of the distinguished doctor Gerhard van Swieten, and the family moved to Vienna in 1745 when his father was appointed personal physician to Empress Maria Theresa. After completing his education at the ‘Theresianum’, Vienna’s exclusive Jesuit school, Gottfried briefly held a post in the Austrian civil service before embarking on an extended period of diplomatic training. Between 1755 and 1777 much of his time was spent abroad, with lengthy stays in Brussels (1755–7) and Paris (1760–63) and a visit to England in 1769. He had a short-lived term with ministerial rank in Warsaw (1763–4), but his one major diplomatic posting was as ambassador to Berlin (1770–77), where he was responsible for Austria’s interests in the negotiations with Frederick the Great over the first partition of Poland. He returned to Vienna as Prefect of the Imperial Library, a post he held until his death. During the 1780s as President of the Court Commission on Education and Censorship he was one of the main instruments of Joseph II’s liberal policies, but he was relieved of his office by Leopold II on ...

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