The Brothers Josephu

The Brothers Josephu
Young Josef at work...circa 1917

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wien Museum

I just received a photo disk from the Vienna Museum. There are four Josephu pieces in their archives, three by Florian and one by Josef. The photos are well taken and I have paid for rights of use in my biography. Now that the weather is cooling, and other time-consuming events are ending, I'll have time to return to reviewing my research, doing more research, and getting back to the writing.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Family Today

Here is a photo taken of at the family reunion, Sunday, June 5th, 2011.

Standing (L-r) : Brigitte Kundi, Claudia Zankl, Birgit Josephu, Astrid Josephu, Herbert Josephu, Brigitte Rabensteiner, Katharina Josephu, Peter Josephu, Dusan Benisek and Bianca Benisek. Sitting L-r.; Florian Klein and son emil, Marc Baron, Barbara Kundi, Michael Kundi, Trixie Sumerlechner, Malin Kundi and Sabina Kaštelančić.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Loss

I received word today from Vienna about one of the statues we located. The piece is a bust of piano virtuoso Alfred Grünfeld and sculpted by Florian Josephu-Drouot. The piece should have been located in the library/archive of the Gesellschaft der Musickfreunde (The Society of Music Friends in Vienna). The email stated that they were mistaken and the piece no longer exists. It was damaged/lost during World War II, and there are no photographs of the piece.

In short time I will begin returning to my work (researching and writing), and create a slide show of photos of the existing works to post here on this blog.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Art Work Totals

After examining the items located during our scavenger hunt, and noting items held by family, here's the break down of the total items confirmed as still in existence. We're confident there are more works out there by both josef and Florian, either in the public or privately held. (Some of the items in Josef's total include pieces in America.) Not included in this count are coin-like medallions by both brothers. Our search continues.

FLORIAN: 26 pieces;
      3 Restorations
      7 statues
      2 graves
      4 Reliefs
      4 mosaic/ceramic reliefs
      6 family owned pieces

JOSEF: 43 pieces
      21 statues
      4 graves
      2 reliefs
     16 family owned pieces

In time we hope to identify each piece by name with an accompanying photo.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trip - Day 17

Wednesday, June 15th

George and Brigitte pick me up bright and early, allowing for ample time to get to the airport and our last breakfast together before my flight home. It's a bittersweet moment for me.

My trip has been a great adventure. We've found the majority of of the works of Josephu we searched for, photographing and noting precise locations. We've had many laughs and enjoyed great meals and simple breakfasts together. my trip would not have been possible - and certainly not successful - if it weren't for George and Brigitte, my very gracious hosts. They have looked after me every step of the way, and shown me things I would not have had I been traveling on my own. They have made me feel a welcome member of the family, and I will treasure this trip forever. As wonderful as all of this is, I'm also looking to returning to New York, and to my life there.

There's still much work to do. not only look through all the mail that has piled up in my absence, but to sort through the more than 1,300 photos taken...and go through my notes for the blog....and to continue my research on the brothers Josephu. The items provided me by Renata and Dr. Weiss will require my attention so I may pull out relevant information to add to my biographic work.

I also need to return to business - to revive my acting career put on hold for almost two years during my mother's final days - and to get back to the efforts of my film partner and our company, Oroloro Entertainment, to somehow finance our projects. I need to return to my responsibilities as a Board Member of Screen Actors Guild and our effort to merge will fellow actor union AFTRA. the upcoming SAG elections (where I hope to be re-elected) The Lambs ... and ym filmmaker networking group, IndieNights.

I need to send emails to everyone I've met along this journey, to thank Herbert Fischer and others for there assistance and friendship. I look forward to keeping in touch with all of them, and the newly-found family reunited on June 5th. I will certainly return to Vienna in a few years, and I look forward to breakfasts with George and Brigitte. Hopefully, with the finished tome on Josephu in hand, and perhaps a trip to Salzburg.

On my flight home on Air France I have ample time to review that past days in my mind, forever implanting these days in memory.

Trip - Day 16

Tuesday, June 14

After breakfast we close up Brigitte's apartment and begin our return drive to Vienna. George gets a phone call from Master Stonemason Robert Kiermayr. he's placed the relief by Florian, the Chimney Sweep, in a place where we can access it anytime. We stop on the trip for a coffee and snack. Brigitte gets behind the wheel and we're off again.

As we near Vienna we get a radio report of a traffic jam, so we detour around briefly going through the town of Baden, famous for its hot spring baths. Late that afternoon we drop off Brigitte at her apartment to tend to her flowers. I follow George back to his apartment, driving the Yaris while George drives Brigitte's Mini. We leave the Yaris in the parking garage and head over to Herr Kiermayr. Unfortunately we've missed him but we are pleased to see the Chimney Sweep. We hope to get some help/information from Kiermayr to see what the procedure is regarding graves that are closed down for lack of payment and if there is a way to find where the statues go. Specifically, trying to find Josef's statue that adorned the grave of my great grandfather. Moritz Kohn.

Nearby, in a lovely beer garden, George and have dinner while waiting for his son, Florian, his son Emil and Emil's mother, Trixie. I have a lovely roast pork dinner, but well aware that this would be my last dinner in Vienna.

 I'm driven back to my apartment so I may pack and ready for the early morning flight.

Trip - Day 15

Monday, June 13th

After our breakfast at Villa Zane, we bid farewell to our host, Giacomo, and head back to Klagenfurt.

On our way we make an excursion to the town Udine. This is another town that dates back ages with wonderful streets to stroll, filled with interesting architecture. We first stop at the piazza San Giacomo for a coffee. Then Brigitte leads us to more photogenic spots, including the Piazza della Libertà. We had hoped to go inside the church Santa Maria della Purità but we've just missed the open hours. After more photogrpahs we head over to lunch in a small cafe, the Ostarie Al Vecio Stallo, once a stable near a vineyard, where grapes still grow on the cafe walls.

Well fed, we next visit a modern mall where Brigitte buys some perfumes, and then we're back in the Yaris and on our way to her flat in Klagenfurt.

Once settled in at Klagenfurt, we have a dinner - where I have one of those forgotten dinners of my mother, taflespitz (boiled beef). A stroll throught town, and a good night's rest.

Trip - Day 14

Sunday, June 12th


We enjoyed another restful night at the Villa Zane. After breakfast we head to the Treviso train station. All aboard for Venice! We're fortunate to get three seats together on the crowded train. It's just a short 35 minutes to the last stop, Venice. First thing we do at the Veince station is check the schedules to plan what time we need be back for our return trip.

As soon as we step out of the Stazione Santa Lucia, we enter a large square on the Grand Canal. To our left is the Ponte Degli Scalzi which takes us over to the first of the many islands that make Venice. It's a warm day and the square is very crowded with tourists from all over the world, and the canal is busy with gondolas, row boats, power boats, taxis and ferries. 

We work our way through the crowd, across the bridge...then down through the narrow streets. Some streets are so narrow you can reach out your hands and touch both sides at the same time. As we walk we cross over smaller bridges, pass though smaller squares then large ones. Occasionally we stop for photos, or to peak inside a church. Almost every shop we pass is there strictly for the tourists; trinkets, Venetian Masks, or quick eats. There's a temptation to photograph every inch, but I manage some self control and try to be selective.

It seems the closer we get to a square, the more shops there are. This is especially true of the area around the famed Rialto Bridge, the oldest in Venice. Brigitte is our excellent guide and leads us to the Piazza San Marco. There is a sea of people ahead of us. To our right is the Cafe Florian where musicians play a Strauss Waltz (I joked it was solely for our benefit). The Doge's Palace and the great St. Mark's Basilica are the prominent features, as is the granite tower with the winged lion - the symbol of St. Mark.

There's a long line to enter St. Mark's Basilica. At first it seems too long, but Brigitte notices the line is actually moving quickly. George and I get in line while Brigitte waits for us, holding our bags, which are not permitted inside. There are two options at the entrance, follow the crowd up to the balcony for a higher view, or enter the chapel for a fee. I would have gone into the chapel if photographs were permitted. Because we're only here for one day with so much yet to see, we decide to move on.

Brigitte leads us to our oasis for lunch. From there we head to the Jewish Ghetto. The term "ghetto" originated here in Venice for the area were Jews were compelled to live. The buildings here a little higher, and we pass several old temples.

On the far side of the Ghetto we catch a ferry that takes us to the Lido, where - compared to the crowds of the central areas of Venice - it seems peaceful. (On our ride over we pass under the Rialto. The canals are busier than normal because there are some small boats races going on this weekend. At several times we saw gondola gridlock.)

Lido is also where the annual Venice Film Festival is held. On Lido (Italian for 'beach') we stroll past some villas and an ornate hotel to visit the famed Lido Beach. On our way back to the ferry we stop for a cool drink and for gelato, then back to a ferry which takes us around Venice to a point close to the square where we began, and we walk back to the stazione. We've timed things well and catch a train, again lucky to get seats together. This train had air conditioning, which was welcome to me after our warm day in Venice.

We exit back at Treviso station, get into George's Yaris and drive back to Villa Zane, but we decide to pick-up a pizza along the on our way. We spend the evening in the quiet of the grounds, enjoying our pizza near a Linde tree while sharing a bottle of wine provided by the gracious host of Villa Zane.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Trip - Day 13

Saturday, June 11

We sleep in a little later than usual, and enjoy the extra rest. Then we're off to George's Yaris and we continue our drive over the Alps to Italy. We pause at another medieval town in Italy called Venzone. This small town is still a walled city, was devastated by an earthquake in 1976 and has rebuilt itself by actually placing each brick back in its original place. A few buildings remain in ruin as a reminder of that terrible time.  Brigitte takes time to shop in one of the towns Lavender emporiums.

From here we drive, and then lunch at Osteria di Villafredda. Once the farmhouse for a vineyard, and now a rustic yet elegant restaurant. After lunch we drive to Villa Manin, sprawling palace once used by Napoleon. We are disappointed to learn the magnificent gardens no longer exists.

Our next stop is Villa Zane, a bed and breakfast near the town of Treviso. Villa Zane's owner, Giacomo, greats warmly greets us. The building dates back to the 1500's, and the current family has owned it since the early 1800's. Great detail has been placed in the rooms here. My room is a comfortable 3-room suite with a bedroom, modern bathroom and sitting room, and everything is extremely cozy and clean. Outside there is a veranda with comfortable seating, and a large manicured yard. 

Once we settle in, we head off to the nearby town of Treviso for dinner. Brigitte's guides us through the busy town, where people outnumber the cars. Many of the buildings are designed with porticoes allowing pedestrians the ability to walk with overhead shelter. the architecture is similar to Venice. This is a very popular town for young and old alike. Many restaurants and shops are found among the old buildings. This walled in city dates back to Roman times 89 BC. It is the home to Benetton and DeLonghi, and was under Venetian rule, then later under French rule (Napoleon) and then part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and 1866 back to Italian domain. We have a lovely dinner, and stroll over to the Domo afterward. We had limited time for photos inside because a service was just starting.

We head back to our rooms and ready for the big day to come.

Trip - Day 12

Friday, June 10th

Today George and Brigitte show me the beauty of the area around Klagenfurt.

We visited a monastery that began building in the year 890 and was converted about 10 years ago to a school. the fountain in the courtyard is dated 1675. We head up the mountainside, toward a tower perched atop a mountain peak. We pause for lunch first, then go up the tower.

The views from the tower are spectacular. We can see the Alps that separate Austria from Italy, and in an other direction they separate Austria from Slovenia. Below is the bright blue-green lake known as Wörthersee. Once a spot for Vienna's nobility, and now a vacation spot for the wealthy, their mansions line the shoreline along with several hotels. Gustav Mahler had a large property here. We can see one peninsula on the lake called Maria Wörth which we'll visit in a short time.

Down in Maria Wörth we visit two churches, the old and the new - both with magnificent views. The new church has a small cemetery with a view for all eternity of the lake below.

From here we drive back to Klagenfurt to a lovely park alongside Wörthersee - the area was originally swampland but converted into a popular park. We have a drink as we watch the early sunset over the lake, then head back to the apartment.

In the evening we visit two of Brigitte's friends, Dr. Renate Arnold and Dr. Uwe Arnold. The apartment has a lovely peaceful view of the alps from their back terrace. They are wonderful people, intelligent, warm and friendly, with good humor. We enjoy conversation, laughs, prosciutto and wine. At one point we discuss what George and I have been doing, and mention Florian's statue at a library in Sandleiten. Renata grew up in that area and knew of the fountain...and possessed a book with a photo of it! The book is about a period in Vienna after the first World War known as the Red Vienna. She explains what that time was like, and it gives me fuel for my writings on Josef and Florian. As we leave Renata so kindly and generously presented the book at a gift. I only wish she had signed it for me.

Trip - Day 11

Thursday, June 9th

Today we're off to Lower Austria, to the Alps and a short stay at Brigitte's apartment in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee. This is the capital of the Austrian federal state of Carinthia and the sixth largest city in the country. The drive is beautiful; rolling green hills dotted with small villages. We stop at a small medieval town called Freisach. The town dates back as early as the year 890. Remnants of the castle, town wall and moat are very clear. We take a look inside the old church, and we walk along small town square where a Maypole still stands. I cannot help wondering if the people who live in Freisach realize the 'wonder' of their home. Apparently so, because every building is perfectly maintained.

From here we head to Klagenfurt am Wörthersee. the drive becomes more dramatic as we get closer to the Alps. The rolling hills now become major mountains, and the green somehow manages to get even deeper green. We arrive and Brigitte's flat and short time take a stroll to the older downtown area. There are many new shops in the old square, which dates to the 1500's.

Trip - Day 10

Wednesday,  June 8th
Today our plans are to visit the Vienna Prater - an amusement park best known for its large Ferris wheel. My grandfather's first date with my grandmother, Olga, was at the Prater...and it was on the Ferris wheel where he declared they would marry someday.

My day began with our usual breakfast. I received an email from the Wien Museum with forms needed to obtain photos and permission to use the photos, of 4 Josephu pieces; two by Florian and two by Josef. The are a death mask of Holzknecht, a bust of Robert Schumann, a bust of Robert Kronfeld and a bust of Karl Seitz. The pieces are in the archives and it will take some time to get photos to me. George helps me fill out the forms and fax them off. I also got an email from Herr Gutschi apologizing, concerned he seemed unfriendly during my visit. I assured him I realized is was the language barrier and not to worry, and thanked him for allowing my take photographs.

George and I go to the Leopold Museum in the Museum Quarter. During these days I haven't had the chance to go inside museums and places of historic note (which I will absolutely do on some future visit). among the art are works of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.

After a coffee at the Leopold, we head over to the Gesellschaft der Musickfreunde and meet with Ilse Kosz, the archivist of their library. He we fill out forms requesting photos and permission, for the bust of Grünfeld is also not available.

George and I then go to the Prater where we are soon joined by Brigitte. We ride the large Ferris wheel. The beautiful views of Vienna were made dramatic by an approaching thunderstorm. We take cover inside a cafe, where I enjoy another family treat, palatschinken. a thin crepe filled with apricot filling.

Next, we're off to another search for a piece by Florian entitled "Chimney Sweep," which is located somewhere among a cluster of apartment buildings. We searched for quite a long time. Several of these are under remodeling and there are spots where something has obviously been removed - like artwork. George inquires with several workers and we are directed to a project supervisor, where we learn the piece we are seeking has been removed and will be placed back up when remodeling is done. George does an excellent job of befriending the supervisor, who then calls the stone mason, who confirms he has the relief. George and the stone mason agree that we'll meet another day and view the piece.

Another day. But tomorrow, we take a break - a vacation within a vacation, or perhaps a vacation from this vacation.

Trip - Day 9

Tuesday,  June 7th

Our day began with another cozy breakfast together. George drops me off near the top entrance to Upper Belvedere. He's off on a few errands and we'll meet up later. As I enter the gates I immediately recognize to statues overhead from the photo book we looked at during our family reunion. These were two pieces restored by Florian. I walk through the gardens and exit Lower Belvedere on Rennweg...then walk up to the Waisenhauskirche Pfarre Maria Geburt, a church that dates back to the 1600's where works of Josef have been reported. It took a bit of effort to find a way inside, but once there I was given access to the closed church to photograph a statue of Mary, and an altar, both made by Josef.

From here I continue up Rennweg looking for the where Josef, my grandmother Olga and my mother had lived before leaving Vienna in 1939.  I recall visiting the building 14 years ago with my mother (an emotional moment for her). However, sadly, the building is gone and an auto dealership stands in its place. Disappointing.

I get call from Herbert Fischer that a researcher at the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wein, mag. Wolf-Erich Eckstein, has made himself available for a visit. The office  was closing early so I needed to move quickly. Herr Eckstein has found some entries regarding my grandmother, Olga, and her father Moritz Kohn. Herr Eckstein is a popular and busy man - while he explained the entry  to me he would need to take many phone calls. He allows me to photograph the pages, and asks me to send him a photo of the grave of Mortiz (the one we could not find sculpted by Josef). He hopes that perhaps he may find some hidden clues.

After my visit I had some time to simply play tourist and enjoy the beauty and history that surrounds me in the First District. I head over to a concert hall adjacent the Künstlerhaus called the Gesellschaft der Musickfreunde (The Society of Music Friends in Vienna). According to some notes by Florian and his daughter, Johanna, there is a bust of Alfred Grünfeld here. It's confirmed! However, it is located in their library which is not open today. So, I'll schedule a revisit for another day. (You can hear a recording of Grünfeld by clicking here).

Back through the Graben where I pick up a very large, slightly spicy hot dog for lunch. George calls that his errands are complete, and I leave via the nearby U-bahn.

We visit an apartment building where Florian had lived many years - where George had visited him in younger days - and where Josef had once lived, as well as their sister Mitzi. We head off to another cluster of buildings searching for a mosaic by Florian titled "Mittag." It's apparant these buildings have had work done to the exterior, and we have no luck in finding the mosiac. George asked a few residents but they were none aware of the work. At one point a young boy of perhaps seven to eight years old overhears the conversion and states how he liked that mosiac and misses it. He described it correctly, a freindly smiling sunrise.

From here, George takes me to Schönbrunn - but before we wenter we stop for coffe and topflenstrudel at Cafe Dommayer. Dommayer goes back to the 1830's, and Strauss would lead performances of his waltzes here. The strudel, coffe and service were excellent. We walk to the entrance of Schönbrunn and enjoy the grounds and gardens, then hop on a litte 'train' that takes you throughout the grounds. At one point we stop at an overlook near the Gloriette. The view is spectacular, looking down over the gardens to the palace and Vienna in the background.

On our way home we revisit the relief by Florian we found on the evening of the concert by Yussuf Islam. Nightfall prevent us from getting good photos on our first visit.

Another full and rewarding day in Vienna.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Trip - Day 8

Monday,  June 6

Today we ventured out to a town just north of Vienna, Klosterneuburg. Last fall I was contacted by Herr Dr. Josef Weiss regarding a bust of the founder of the Federal College and Institute for Viticulture and Pomology Klosterneuburg, August Wilhelm von Babo, which was sculpted by my grandfather. The college conducts education and research on wine grapes, vines and wine making.

We foirst stopped off at another housing complex in Vienna, searching for a piece by Florian. Here, again, the location was not exact and we needed to look through many buildings before finding the mosaic titled "Paper and Lanterns," which surrounds the door of one of the buildings. From there we headed to Klosterneuburg, George takes me to the building where my grandfather was born along the way.

We visited the college where we were greeted by Dr. Weiss, past president of the college, and by Karl Vogl. Both very friendly and proud of their institution. We first were shown the bust, temporarily inside while the outside area where it normally stands is remodeled. Then we were given a delightful tour of the impressive facility, which ended in a wine tasting room. Three bottles of excellent wine were opened while we heard tales of Babo, of the institute, and of wine making. Of the three, my favorite was a red wine labled "Cuvee 150" in honor if the 150th anniversery of the institute (though the Chardonay ice wine was fabulous). Then, as we were readying to leave, we were offered a gift - three bottles of the Cuvee 150. Dr. Weiss and Herr Vogl were an abolsutle pleasure to visit with, and their generosity is greatly appreciated.

Goeoge and I took a little time off from our searching to enjoy a visit to the Monastery of Klosterneuburg, founded in the year 1114. We stroll through the grounds, tour the chapel and visit the royal apartments. We paused in their snack shop where we had coffee, and I had Eiernockerl, one of those dishes I grew up on and one my children also learned to love.

We then head off to Arne Carlsson Park in Vienna where there's a statue by my grandfather of Professor Guido Holzknecht. Well, not exactly. Holzknecht was a pioneer in radiation therapy and lost several fingers due to radiation posioning. The original bust featured Holzknecht's hand and missing fingers. The statue was damaged in the war and a replacement was made which barely resembles the original. Here both hands have all fingers. They 'healed' the man. It's interesting that the statue was signed not by the replacement's sculptor, but was honoring my grandfather, with his 'signature' including the original year of the work. But the name is spelled wrong as JOSEFFEU (the proper spelling is Josephu). In an online guide to Vienna, the statue is credited to Josef Sheu, who was a composer/musician and not a sculptor. When one looks at the inscription the 'f' could be misttaken as an "S".....Herbert Fisher has put forth a correction notice.

Trip - Day 7

Sunday, June 5th

Today is a day I've been looking forward to for some time, the family reunion. My chance to meet the family I only knew of recently. Many thanks to my cousin George who arranged it. Family from all over the area are coming; from Vienna, Croatia, Germany, Salzburg and the Czech Republic.

We begin our morning with our usual breakfast together, with George, Brigitte, tea and fresh rolls. Then we head out in George's Toyota Yaris and we pick up Dusan and Bianca...and drive to the First District. We stroll around streets I now feel at home in, pass the Vienna State Opera House, walk near the Albertina to a Holocaust Memorial in a square nearby. It once was a home where many Jews hid during the war, and single bomb destroyed the house killing all the inhabitants.  From here we walk along the Graben, pass Stephensdom Cathedral, and stop for lunch at Figlmüller's. This is a heuriger I remember from my visit 14 years ago that has gotten so popular it's difficult to get in without a reservation. George called ahead and we were told if we got there at the opening we'd have a chance for a seat. What is special at Figmüller's is their schnitzel. One piece is the size of a pizza - and it's tasty, tender and perfectly accompanied with a salad. Dusan cannot believe the size of it! I could eat two, but that would be overdoing it. Afterward, we continue our stroll.

Back in the Yaris we head off to a restaurant/beer garden that George has arranged as the spot for our family reunion. Peter and Herbert Josephu have already arrived with their wives, Astrid and Katharina. Soon other's began to show up from all the branches of the family; the Josephus, the Kleins, the Beniceks and the Kundis...20 people in all! I am overwhelmed by how far they have traveled to meet. The youngest of the family is George's grandson, Emil. We compare family tree notes compiled by Peter and Herbert's father, and scour over a photo scrapbook and other family memorabilia...there's so much family history here!

Many photos were taken, and then we went to George's apartment for more wine, and food, and talk. It was a very special time I'll always fondly remember. I look forward to keeping in contact with everyone...and I look forward to the next family reunion someday. George now has the photo scrape book and will soon scan it's pages and send them to me. A very special day indeed!

One family mystery remains, its evidence found a book of letters George has, formerly held by Florian. In 1952 there was a cordial letter from my grandmother, the red Olga, to Florian's wife, the black Olga. However, all these years we were told the family hide not survived World War Two. But the reality was they were in contact with the family long after the war. Now that my mother is dead this question will remain an mystery.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trip - Day 6

Saturday, June 4th

Today my hunt is shared with Brigitte. George is preparing his apartment for the arrival of cousins coming in from the Czech Republic for our family reunion tomorrow.  We visit more cemeteries today, looking for graves sculpted by Josef and Florian. We found our targets, and both are in excellent condition. One other grave I was not sure if/where it existed, but for some reason thought it was in Baumgarten Cemetery...but it was not.

From the cemeteries we head off to an animal protection/Humane Society and veterinary site, the Wiener Tierschutzverein Tierschutzhaus. The target is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.  We couldn't find this statue 14 years ago. It was originally in the Lainz Tierschutzgarten, but not there on our visit, and no one knew of its fate.  It was George who found this piece years after we first got to know each other. Overall it's in good shape.

From here, it's off to wine country. There's occasionally light rain but not enough to spoil any of our fun. Brigitte takes me to a town near Mödel and the more famous town of Baden, called Gumpoldskirche. Very quaint with narrow streets. We walk down a narrow path, under a Linden Tree (Brigitte's favorite). Linden tree blossoms have a wonderful aroma, not unlike honeysuckle but less sweet and more haunting - there should be a perfume based on the Linden. We hike through some vineyards, and eventually settle into a heuriger. We enjoy some wine and talk, and are eventually joined by George, and the Czech cousins, Dusan and Bianca Benicek. We have a lovely afternoon, and eventually move inside to avoid an approaching thunderstorm, where we enjoy food, wine and a friendly evening together.

Trip - Day 5

Friday,  June 3

Today began with a solo venture back in the First District. George dropped me off at the U-Bahn (Vienna's equivalent to NY's subway), a very clean and efficient form of mass transportation. I stop at the Karlsplatz station and walk my way over to Karlskirche (St. Charles Church). I recall how 14 years ago my other and I visited Vienna and stayed at a hotel nearby, The Kaiserhof. For days we looked for Karlskirche. We finally asked the hotel concierge only to find it was directly behind our hotel!  Karlskirche is a beautiful large church, now a museum. The exterior is very unique and it's blue dome may be seen from all around. Inside is a wooden carving of St. Anthony by my grandfather, Josef. I get my photos and take the lift up a scaffold that has been installed to allow visitors a closer look at the painted ceilings.

From here I head to the Belvedere, once a palace and now a museum. It's grounds are large, dotted with sculptures, and divided into "Upper" and "Lower."  It should have been a short walk, by my GPS was not fairing well...and it directed me to the Upper Belvedere. I was hoping to meet Katinka Gratzer, an archivist. I was directed down to the Lower Belvedere, which was much closer to Kalrskirche. Although I came somewhat unexpected (I had emailed my plans to visit but never mentioned when) Ms. Gratzer cheerfully welcomed me. She had an assistant pull out what little information she had, not on Josef or Florian, but on their instructors, Edmund von Hellmer and Hans Bitterlich. I promised I will forward Ms. Gratzer copies of Josef's academy certificates signed by those two scultpors.

From here I walk just below the Belveder entrance to Schwarzenberg Palace, hoping to find some work by Florian he described as "vases in a niche." The building us going through major rennovation, becoming a hotel. I find nothing outside and it's completely closed down.

From here I roam for a while, just taking in the sites near the Ringstrasse. We are going to meet with Herbert Fischer for lunch. Herbert is extremely skilled in online family research, a passionate hobby of his. I was introduced to Herbert through an email during my pre-trip research, and Herbert has uncovered many wonderful things. He's also ventured out and located some of the statues and graves, and emailed photos before my trip.  I didn't know what Herbert looked like, so when I arrived at the Oberlaa restaurant I called his cell. He's a very pleasant man. George soon joined us and we had a lovely lunch and talk. Herbert then presented me with a lovely gift, a copy of Modern Welt from July 1922.  The magazine issue discusses sculptors and has a piece on the brothers Josephu - Josef and Florian - with some excellent pictures.  This is a much appreciated surprise! He also gave me a scanned copy of the issue as well. Then Herbert says he's found a piece by Florian we hadn't known about, and will take us there later.

I was please that Herbert could join us for the afternoon, and together we three headed over to the Albertina. Behind it lies a large glass greenhouse called the Palmenhaus. I have a photo of an exhibition of works by Josef, and the iron work in the background certainly looks like it was here. Josef's notes state one of his statues, Eve, was made of marble and in Vienna; the photo is of Eve among palms with a second Josephu statue visible in the background. Palmenhaus is now a restaraunt and there is no statue present. We find the owner who offers to show the photo to her father with hopes that he may remember. I would later learn that he does not. So, this one remains a mystery. However, it is most likely that this was simply a temporary exhibit.

Herbert then leads us over the a Florian work: A plaque/relief of piano virtuoso Alfred Grünfeld. It's in excellent condition and sits atop the entrance to a building. I recall in my pre-trip research finding a medallion made by Florian of Grünfeld, possibly as an award for some competition, and find it interesting that Grünfeld  is now twice the subject of Florian's work. Herbert thinks there is also a bust of Grünfeld in a cemetary, but we could never find any reference to where.

It's now raining and we head off to the U-Bahn and home...the ending to another full day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trip - Day 4

Thursday - June 4th.

Today Brigitte joined us as we headed outside Vienna. We traded George's SmartCar for Brigitte's red Mini Cooper and drove to small towns in the outlying area north of Vienna. This was an added benefit for me for it allowed me to see more of Vienna and the area, and how people live in Austria.

We drove to the Vienna Woods, to a hill north of Vienna called Kahlenberg. It's a beautiful drive. The Kahlenberg Church at the top has been there since the mid 1600's. There's a wonderful view of Vienna in the valley below, with the Danube to the left.

We then head down the hill to the Grinzinger Cemetery, an old a picturesque graveyard where we find the grave of Paula Kalman. She was the wife of composer Emmerich Kalman, who was a friend of my grandfather: Josef sculpted Paula's grave. I must take a moment here to acknowledge and thank Herbert Fisher again. He took time to help verify a few pieces, and send me photos of the Kalman grave, and of the next statue.

We proceeded to a small town called Zistersdorf. A quaint village where we pursue one of Josef's works, a memorial to fallen soldiers. First a nice lunch at a lovely restaurant. Then off to the memorial, found as expected, behind a church called Maria Moos Kirche (or  Wallfahrtskirche Maria Moos), which dates back to the 1200's.

We then headed off to a historical village called Museumdorf Niedersulz, which shows what life was like in the Austrian farmland 200 years ago with well preserved buildings that one may visit inside as well.

From here we drove across very green farmland dotted with small villages and arrived at a town called Gänserndorf. We are seeking a building that was once a rail station with a large relief on its wall by Josef. The area is somewhat flat, and the building is easy to spot - it's the tallest in the valley. The building had been renovated and expanded but the artwork was preserved. It was rumored that the building had been destroyed, but fortunately it was not.

From Gänserndorf we head back to Vienna, searching for a cluster of buildings that should contain ceramic reliefs by Florian. We only had an intersection to look for and not an actual address. We wandered around for quite a bit. When we were just about to give up we found them! Three ceramics adorn each of three entries into the building, somewhat obscured by overgrown bushes.

That evening we returned to Brigitte's apartment, and then went to a local spot for wine and food called a Heuriger. These are specially licensed taverns where only the wine from the vineyard may be sold, and a limited amount of food. We came several times to this particular Heuriger for good wine and snacks, and good conversation.

Trip - Day 3

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The GPS unit I brought has turned out to be very helpful, not only for navigating but for recording precise locations once we have located a statue. My plan is to log the GPS coordinates of each piece to inlcude in the final biorgrahpy so readers (and family) may visit the works of the brothers Josephu. George uses a GPS program on his iPhone, and the two entertained us as we drove in his SmartCar. The units occasionally disagreed on the next turn - it was like having two back-seat drivers in a car without a back seat.

Today we ventured into Vienna'ss First District - the area in and around the RingStrasse. We began by visiting Stadtpark (Vienna's equivalent to NY's Central Park, but much nicer). We head directly to a fountain with a statue by Florian. Then we stroll through the park enjoying the gardens and artwork, including a bust of composer Franz Lehar. We come up to the famous gold statue of Johann Strauss, but the one here today is his 'stand-in.' The original one is off for restoration (as is the arc that normally surrounds the statue). A replacement has been stationed so tourists may stand next to it to have their photo taken. The importance of this statue its sculptor, Edmund von Hellmer, who was a teacher for both Josef and Florian. Hellmer's works may be seen all over Vienna.

We then went down to the Graben, an area of streets closed off to traffic and now for pedestrian use only. We stop for a light lunch - small, tasty sandwiches at the 100 year old Trześniewski's....then we walked past Stephensdom - St. Stephen's Cathedral, the center of Vienna. It's undergoing external restoration.

We headed over to a school called the Academy Gymnasium. Inside the ornate lobby there is a marble relief by Josef. The Academy is the oldest secondary school in Vienna, founded in 1553 with many famous graduates, including Franz Shubert. Nearby stands a popular statue of Beethoven.  We stopped for coffee at a cafe over 100 years old, Café Prückel.

From here we pass many museums and beautiful buildings, and walk down a narrow street and find a plaque of Johann Strauss (the father) by Florian. From there we headed to the Ringstrasse and grab a Strassbahn (street car)...and in two short stops we're at the Künsterlhaus. This was the site of the Association of Austrian Artists where both Josef and Florian were members. Josef left after a few short years, but Florian remained and was later made an honorary member. We took some photos inside then inquired if a historian or archivist was present. We met Nadine Willer who was extremely excited to greet us. Just the day before they had stumbled across this blog and had hoped we would visit. She welcomed us into the archives where she had readied a very large volume, to the pages on Florian. The photos of those pages will prove to be helpful. One thing is clear, the knowledge George and I have about Josef and Florian is more than any other source, and the publishing of our research is highly anticipated.

George needed to attend to some personal business, so I remained in the First District to meet up with him later. I walked down to the Academy of Fine Arts where Josef and Florian studied. I met with the university archivist, Ferdinand Gutschi. Herr Gutschi's English is a limited as is my German, but we managed. I presented good quality color copies of six certificates awarded to Josef, some signed by Professor Edmund von Hellmer and others by Professor Hans Bitterlich. Bitterlich was for many years the director of the Academy and a highly respected sculptor. Those certificates will go into the archives, and then I was permitted to photograph the interiors.

Then, once again, I crossed through the center of town, photographing like a happy tourist, and found my way over to Am Hof 5 - the site of the Feuerwehr Museum, a museum dedicated to the history of Austria's fire brigades. The building was undergoing repairs after a large crane crashed nearby months ago. George had warned me the museum would be closed, but I was determined. One again, it seemed that Josef and Florian were watching over me, for not long after I arrived a fireman came out, and could speak English! Thomas Niefergall, and....he was the only person on duty that day with the key! He invited me inside for a private visit to the museum where there are eight statues by Josef. I knew of four, including a 12-foot bronze of St. Florian. This was a very nice suprise! I look forward to Thomas' visit to New York in the fall.

I then found my way to the opposite side of the district, near the Donau Canal, to meet up with George. We first enjoyed wonderful ice cream, more like Italian Gelato than the harder American version I'm accustomed to. Delicious. Then, off to Jazzland. My guitarist friend, Howard Alden (who occasionally plays at Jazzland), recommended we visit. The owner, Axel Melhardt, was not in attendance but had set aside seating for us, and we were well taken care of by Martin, the waiter/bartender/host, who also showed me two of Howard's photos among the sea of images which adorn the walls. Brigitte later joined us and we enjoyed the performance of the Worried Man Skiffle Group. They are a Viennese singers/musicians working together for over 50 years.

Another personal note on Vienna, my visit afforded me the chance to eat many of the foods my mother made for us over the years. some I learned to cook, some my children also eat, and some I have been forgotten. At Jazzland I had one of the forgotten...Schinkenfleckrl. It was a wonderful ending to a very full and productive day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trip - Day 2

Tuesday, May 31

George picked me up in his efficient Smart Car for Two and, after breakfast with the ever smiling and playful Brigitte, we returned to our mission. This day we visited Josef’s “Zuflucht,” a large sandstone piece that lies in the courtyard of a kindergarten. I had located this piece 14 years ago when I visited Vienna with my mother, but had no decent photos. In fact, all my photos from that trip were useless due to a camera malfunction. On this trip I’m taking triple measures – retaining photos on digital SD cards, loading them to my computer then creating back-ups to an external hard drive…and possibly, if time allows, up into Picasa.

We picked up a sandwich for lunch, but enjoyed some ice cream first. Vienna's ice cream is more like Italian gelato..and delcious. Hey, life’s too short – eat desert first!

We then went through several cemeteries, searching for both graves of family members and for grave markers created by either Josef or Florian. We had limited luck. In Vienna, when a grave has been left unattended and fees not paid, the grave is eventually turned over. This was the apparently the sad fate of several on our list, including that of Moritz Kohn my great-grandfather. His grave featured a statue by his son-in-law, Josef. We found the grave of Fritz Lach but the bust sculpted by Josef was missing. Communication with the cemetery by email confirmed the bust was stolen in the late 1990’s. I sent them a photo of the original grave stone for their records.

While there, we also visited two very large, beautiful churches; Leopold's Church and the other outside a hospital complex. George takes photos using a 3D digital camera, sometimes with a fish-eye lens, creating very unique and intriguing photos. I use my DSLR to document as much as I can.

We searched for a large piece by Josef outside a hospital in Lainz, but here we had no luck. It was a piece marking the efforts of care for a World War I hospital – one of many – and most likely had been removed when the hospital was taken down. However, we did have some luck in locating a statue of Jesus/Sacred Heart in a Chapel of the Lainz Hospital. We also visited the Mozart memorial in St. Marx Cemetery, which was restored by Florian in 1950.

Later that evening we attended a wonderful concert by Yusuf Islam, once better known as Cat Stevens. A packed house rose for three standing ovations. Though his voice has shown some signs of age, he was very effective and entertaining, and his music is a powerful and relative as it was years ago. It was on the way to the concert hall where we found a large relief by Florian on the side of a building - and we notd the location to return later to photograph it in the daytime.

Afterward we went for a light supper and beer. Here there is a blend of beer - a mix of a dark beer and a pilsner - called a "schnitz"....something I hope to have again during this trip.  While one would think Austrians love good beer – and they do – they also love good wine, and there are many wonderful vineyards in surrounding areas.

Trip - Day 1

Monday, May 30th.

I arrived in Vienna after a long but comfortable flight. The business elite seats on Delta were extremely comfortable; however I was unable to sleep more than 90 minutes. There’s a 6-hour time difference in Vienna (from NY), and I didn’t set my body clock forward…so I was stuck in NY time. I admit I was excitedly anticipating my trip, going over the plans in my head, and that contributed to my inability to sleep. The flight itself was easy, as was going through security in Kennedy Airport (NYC) and at the transfer point in Brussels. The connection flight from Brussels to Vienna was amusing: I was the only body sitting in the first class section, and the rest of the plane was a Chinese tour group. I an only wonder what they thought as they passed me headed to the rear of the plane.

My first vision, as I exited the luggage pick-up point of Vienna airport, was of my cousin, George Klein, and his lady, Brigitte Rabensteiner – my very own welcoming party! Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since their visit to New York.  At this point I had been awake about 18 hours, but was not ready to sleep. I was taken to Brigitte’s apartment where she conducts her therapy practice. It’s a comfortable flat in a quiet area, and will serve me well as my home away from home. We next went to Brigitte’s home, also comfortable and quiet…and where we would all share breakfast together each morning. Both apartments are decorated with plants and flowers, and a garden – Brigitte’s hobby. Something one notices everywhere in Vienna, the appreciation of a garden, in any size – from a single window box to a full yard, to the landscaped wonders of Belvedere or Schönbrunn.

George was ready to roll, and so was I…so, rather than waste the day sleeping, we went off in search of statues – or, what I call our statue scavenger hunt. We began with visiting the family grave in Baumgarten cemetery. The marker features a mosaic designed by my grandfather’s brother, Florian Josephu-Drouot. Florian did extensive research into the proper materials for use in mosaics (one of many mediums Florian excelled in) to insure the work lasted. His research paid off, for after all these years the weather elements have not affected his work, and this grave mosaic was in excellent shape.

We visited the ‘Police’ Church, St Hubert’s (Pfarramt St. Hubertus und Christophorous) at 2 Kardinal-Piffl-Gasse in the 13th district)…where outside, above the entry, is a large figure of the Holy Trinity by Josef. It can be seen in a photo in their web site. We then visited a granite statue by Florian best known as Mutter und Kind, but originally titled Ehre der Mutter by the artist. George periodically tends this statue, occasionally clearing away the brush and trees that block limit the view of the statue.

We then visited George’s apartment where I stayed for a bit as George attended to a personal matter. I made use of the time by organizing my notes, and my backpack. It was here where I first began to feel the affects of the long first day. When George returned we all went for a light supper, and the day ended with much needed sleep.

Triumphant Return

Just returned from 17 days in Vienna...and Austria...and Venice. Thanks to George Klein and Briggitte Rabensteiner for making this a most amazing trip. We were able to locate numerous works by both Josef and Florian Josephu. A full "diary" report will be posted to the blog soon....many photographs to sort through and post as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Great news!

A building I was looking for, about 30km outside of Vienna in a town called Gänserndorf, has been found! It was reported that thbe building was destroyed in 1998, but in fact it was note. There have been some minor changes to the building, by the large carving on the side (by my grandfather) was preserved. So, I'll be making the trip to Gänserndorf, and personally thank the man who found it (Rudolf Niklas )....and take photos/video for the project....and this was found thanks to the research of Herbert Fischler.

Monday, May 2, 2011

One Stone at a Time

The online research continues to be sure that we uncover all that's possible on my trip to Vienna. I say "we" because my genealogical journey is joined by George Klein (a cousin) and Herbert Fischer. Herr Fischer has been extremely helpful, not only locating works but, in some cases, photographing them. This is extremely helpful now, and once I return. I certianly hope this will not be my last trip to Vienna. George has been my guiding light in Vienna and I am please we share this adventure together.

Through Mr. Fischer's help we did confirm a large building with a large relief-statue on it by my grandfather, Josef, was in the town I suspected until 1998, then it was torn down. Disappointing but at least we know our methods are accurate. At Mr. Fischer's recommendation George and I also are working on a family tree, a linkwill be posted later when our work is complete.

I have decided to broaden the scope of the book to cover my grand-uncle Florian...and we've been able to locate many of his works as well.  The book will also have "mini" biographies of their subjects and close friends. Afterall, if a person was notable enough to have a bronze or stone statue they are worthy of a brief bio in the book.

The one thing that would be a fantastic find is to obtain birth certificates of Florian (or another Josephu sibling) to compare to Josef's.....and hopefully clarify the French ancestory.

I'm also considering different  titles for the project - which will be a biography and a documentary which will link to this blog. The blog to act as a diary of the process, and a place to add any findings once the book/documentary are completed. Up to this poing I had simply titled the work "v. Josephu" but now I'm exploring others...such as "Spirit Over Time", "Steel to Stone" or "Stone in Time"....something that will connect the sculpture to the rival brothers and their history....or stay with my original title of "Rediscovering Josephu"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Google me this...

I must say that my research efforts have become the poster child for Google.

I'd go through some letters received when I started years ago - from places recommended by the Austrian Embassy and Austrian Cultural Institute in NY. I'd enter some of the references into Google 's search and find a web Page. Then I'd turn on Google Translate and the page would shift from German to English, then I'd email someone through that page. If their response as German, I'd cut/paste the text into the Translator, and voila! (well, yes, I know Voila is French, not German). f it was a printed letter, I'd scan into a PDF, then I could copy the text and paste into the translator.

When given an address of a place to visit, or a location of a statue, I'd use Google Maps to pinpoint the spot and, in some instances, switched to the Satellite view, to actually 'see' the location.  I'll utilize these maps to find my way to the locations during my visit. I was able to pin point locations in Vienna, by address or building name, then add them to a custom map - which I'll use to make efficient routes to visit all the statues. Google Maps allows you to edit those point and add in notes, such as what statue is located there. When there I'll use a GPS to not only to navigate around but to pin-point statue locations and record their locations by longitude/latitude for future reference.

I'm using Google's Blog page to leave these notes (in case you didn't already know).

Then, I loaded up all my old photos of the statues - or photos we found online or provided by family - to a Picasa album (a Google property).

Some of those I emailed (with Gmail) responded they had no information, some had very little, and others had information I already knew....sometimes I was given a referral to another person to reach out to.

Letely' more items are showing up thanks to Google Books - excerpts from old texts about the Josephu brothers (in German, then thru Google Translator).

One of those referrals has been extremely helpful - his research skills are a marvel. Herbert Fischer has found some records, located family graves of my great grand parents, and confirmed to statues I suspected still existed. And he is being so kind as to give me precise locations, and take photos! I am looking forward to meeting Herr Fischer in person during my visit, and possibly enjoy a lunch

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More discoveries...

Today I received an email from Vienna with more good news. Five statues have been located. Four are bu Florian Josephu-Drouot, and one may be by Josef or Florian. We'll better determine when we visit and photograph.

At this point the biographical work will expand to cover both Florian and Josef...and a growing interest in not just a book, but a documentary. So, while in Vienna there will be bother photos and video taken.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Very Recent Discovery

What has been a challenge is locating public works by Josephu. He photographed at lot of his sculputres but kept little or no records. This is even more difficult when looking for American based works (he arrived in Sept 1939, and had his first showing in 1940). Using Google to search has been effective, but results vary. Two days I did a search with a pleasant suprise with a twist.

My mother's first husband was Benjamin Chaves, a builder in the Miami area. One of his hotels was the Mimosa Hotel, which still stands a short distance from the famed Fountainbleu Hotel. My mother later divorced and married my father. Ben's son, my half-brother (estranged) Jerry Chaves, was for a while intrigued about our grandfather's history. Jerry visited Vienna and found several pieces - long before my mother and I made our visit.

A Google search yesterday found a Blog listing about Miami Beach talking about the destruction of the Americana Hotel - on collins Avenue, not far from the Mimosa - for the new Sheraton Bal Harbor Hotel. Apparantly, the Americana had many items of art on display and their hotel brochure listed the artists' biographies...and there was Josephu. So, all these years - so close to the Mimosa, built by the father of my brother Jerry, stood a Josephu statue...and no one knew until now. Unfortunately, the wherebouts of that piece are unknown, it may have been destroyed, auctioned off, or incoporated into the new hotel.