In 1728 Emperor Charles VI acquired Schoenbrunn, but used the estate only for shooting pheasants. Eventually he made a gift of it to his daughter, Maria Theresa, who is documented as having always had a special fondness for the palace and its gardens. Maria Theresa's reign marked the opening of a brilliant epoch in Schoenbrunns history, with the palace becoming the centre of court and political life.
In 1742, she celebrated her victory over those who had opposed her accession to power with the famous ladies' carrousel in the Winter Riding School, which was captured on canvas by Martin van Meytens. It is from this painting, hung in 1858, that the Carrousel Room in Schoenbrunn takes its name. Under her personal influence and the supervision of the architect Nikolaus Pacassi Joseph I's grand hunting lodge was rebuilt and extended into a palatial residence.
Work on the unfinished building began in the winter of 1742/43 and eventually culminated in a huge rebuilding project which gave the palace the appearance it still largely has today. The first construction phase from 1743 to 1749 was closely associated with Nikolaus Pacassi, who extended the audience chamber and residential apartments of the future emperor and empress in the east wing. The following phase included the removal of the central exterior flight of stairs that Fischer had huilt on the Parade Court front, in order to create a spacious carriageway out of the ground floor of the central projection, together with the Great and Small Galleries above it on the piano nobile. The two galleries at the centre of the palace provided space for large-scale festivities, with the Small Gallery being used for more intimate family celebrations. At this stage the two rooms were as yet unadorned with the rich stucco decoration and the ceiling frescoes that were later to grace them.
Other alterations at this time included the colonnades connecting the side wings - known as the 'Cavalier Wings' - along the Parade Court which housed the upper ranks of the court servants. Adjacent to these and extending both eastwards (including the Orangery) and westwards a complex of working quarters was constructed. Schoenbrunn had then become an imperial residence, and more than 1500 people had to be provided for and accommodated. At Maria Theresa's express wish a theatre was also built in the north Parade Court wing and was ceremonially opened in 1747. Pacassi was appointed court architect in recognition of his achievements.
The second phase of building work (from 1752 to 1765) was not limited to creating more room in the palace: it also included the decoration of the ceremonial and state rooms. Following the sudden death of Emperor Franz I Stephan in 1765, which was a devastating blow to Maria Theresa, a new phase of refurbishment and alterations ensued. The widowed empress had several rooms in the east wing of the palace appointed as memorial rooms and spared no expense in fitting them out with precious Chinese lacquer panels and costly wooden panelling which have survived to this day. On the ground floor Maria Theresa had the so-called Bergi Rooms painted with exotic landscape murals between 1769 and 1777, and used these rooms as her apartments during the hot summer months.
Emperor Napoleon I
After Maria Theresa died, Schoenbrunn Palace remained unoccupied and was only used as a summer residence again during the reign of Emperor Franz II/I. During this intervening period Schoenbrunn was occupied twice in 1805 and 1809 by Napoleon, during which the French emperor used the memorial rooms to Franz Stephan in the east wing as his quarters.
The Congress of Vienna
On the occasion of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 it had become clear that Schoenbrunn urgently needed refurbishing. During the course of these improvements Franz I/II had the facade altered between 1817 and 1819 to designs by the court architect Johann Aman which considerably changed its appearance. Aman removed Pacassi's elaborate Rococo decoration from the facade, reducing it to much soberer forms with few deco- rative elements, and had the palace painted in "Schoenbrunn Yellow", giving it the characteristic appearance it still retains today.
Emperor Franz Joseph
In 1830 Franz Joseph was born. When he succeeded to the throne in 1848 the palace was once again to experience a brilliant epoch, as he eventually chose Schoenbrunn as his favourite residence and was to spend the major part of his life there. At the beginning of his reign Franz Joseph moved into apartments in the west wing facing the Parade Court which he was to continue to occupy until his death on 21st November 1916. While the state and ceremonial rooms remained largely unaltered, the emperor's private apartments were redecorated and refurnished. Preserved to this day, the rather sober and bourgeois style of the furnishings reveals Franz Joseph's character and predilections. In preparation for his impending marriage to Elisabeth, Duchess in Bavaria, in 1854, work had begun the previous winter on adapting apartments for the future empress in the west wing facing the Hietzinger Kammergarten. Elisabeth's apartments consisted of several rooms centred on the empress's salon. In preparation for the forthcoming world exhibition in Vienna in 1873, work was undertaken from 1869 on the 18th-century Rococo interiors, which were either repaired or replaced with neo-Rococo features as an expression of the imperial style.
This restoration work affected the two galleries and the rooms in the east wing. The walls of these latter rooms were hung either with tapestries from the imperial collection or refurbished with new red silk pineapple damask hangings like those that are still to be seen in the palace today. The mid-18th-century marble-finish stucco work in the Small Gallery was replaced with stucco work with a highly polished white lead finish with elaborate gold decoration in the form of agrafFes, trophies and arrangements of weapons.