Silesia – a Pearl in the Bohemian Crown
Three Periods of Flourishing Artistic Contacts
National Gallery – Collection of Old Masters
Prague, Wallenstein Riding School Gallery
17 November 2006 – 8 April 2007
The exhibition is held under the auspices of Evžen Tošenovský, District Administrator of the Moravian-Silesian District.
The works on the project were carried out within the scientific and research plan of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic (project no. 0002328101).
Main curator: Vít Vlnas
Curators: Jan Klípa, Lenka Stolárová
Conception: Mateusz Kapustka, Andrzej Kozieł, Piotr Oszczanowski
– basic: 120 CZK
– reduced: 60 CZK
– families: 180 CZK
Address: Valdštejnská Street 3, Prague 1
Public transportation: metro line A, tram 12, 18, 20, 22, 23 (station Malostranská)
Open daily except Mondays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Main partner of the NG in Prague: HVB Bank
Sponsor of the NG in Prague: Synot Lotto
Partners: Muzeum Miedzi w Legnicy, Instytut Historii Sztuki
Magistrát hl. m. Prahy, Polský institut v Praze, Termo+, Kompass, AV Media, Adjust Art
Main media partner of the NG in Prague: Hospodářské noviny
Media partners: Art and Antiques, Classic FM, ČRO 3 Vltava, Umění, Týden, Xantypa, Nedělní svět, Triangl Edition, Listy hl. m. Prahy, Companion, ČRO 2 Praha, Rádio Čas
The National Gallery in Prague would like to thank the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic for their willigness to host the exhibition of the NG at the Waldstein Riding School which forms part of the seat of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.
Silesia (Pol. Śląsk, Germ. Schlesien, Lat. Silesia) is a historically significant country and cultural region in Central Europe. Today, a substantial part of Silesia lies in Poland and a minor portion is in the Czech Republic. Prior to 1945, most of the country was in Prussian and then German possession. However, Silesian duchies formed part of the Bohemian Crown for more than four centuries before and were under the sovereignty of Bohemian kings. This strategically important and economically developed country was the neighbour to Poland, Hungary, Brandenburg, Moravia, Bohemia and the two Lusatias. The crossroad of ideological tendencies and spiritual influence, which was once Silesia, gave birth to cultural relics of invariable value and relished in the activities of artists who had a strong impact on the artistic development in all of Central Europe. The present exhibition is an introduction in the area of fine arts to the mutual contacts among Silesia and other countries of the Bohemian Crown from the 14th to 18th centuries. The event was co-organized by the National Gallery in Prague, the Museum of Copper in Legnica and the Institute of Art History of Wroclaw University, while the idea of holding it originates from the latter institutions. Our special thanks belong to those who kindly provided their professional input and certain exhibition items from their collections – several dozens of museums, church institutions and private collectors from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Germany. The exhibition and its comprehensive catalogue are outputs of a wider project whose aim is to present Silesia as cultural region which was crucial to the development of Central Europe. The historical heritage of this country is shared by at least three nations – the Germans, Polish and Czechs. This is one of the reasons why it was fairly omitted or one-sidedly interpreted in the past and has been, in part, forgotten until today. The subject of the mutual relations among Silesia and other lands of the Crown will be also discussed at the international scientific conference Silesia – the Lands of the Bohemian Crown: History and Culture 1300–1740, organized by the National Gallery in Prague in April 2007.
The exhibition Silesia – a Pearl in the Bohemian Crown: Three Periods of Flourishing Artistic Contacts premiered between May and October 2006 in the reconstructed Baroque building of the Knights Academy in Legnica where it enjoyed enthusiastic response of both layman and professional public. The Wallenstein Riding School in Prague, however, presents a substantially wider scale of exhibits. They include about 400 works from the fields of painting, sculpture and drawing as well as prints, illuminated manuscripts, examples of arts and crafts and archive and numismatic relics. This collection illustrates the multifaceted artistic relations among Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia; relations which were of immense importance to the lands of the Bohemian Crown. The selection of exhibits focuses on the three periods of flourishing mutual contacts in history. The first part of the exhibition – The Golden Age of Luxemburg Rule – deals with the period of high and late Gothic. The second part – explicit as The Glamour of Rudolfine Prague – presents the reflections of the court Mannerism. The third, and final section, is entitled The Baroque Flamboyance of Monasteries and Palaces and it relates to the period from the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1648) to the separation of Silesia from the Bohemian Kingdom and its Prussian annexation.
Many works on display are publicly presented for the first time ever; others are set into new and surprising contexts. We have, for example, gathered and exhibited all the surviving Gothic panels from the Vyšší Brod Altarpiece (c. 1440), held today in Prague and Budapest. Also one of the most splendid stone sculptures of the so-called Beautiful (or International) style, the St Catherine, has exceptionally left its place in a church in Jihlava in order to show off at the present exhibition. The Gothic section is dominated by the monumental stone group sculpture The Mount of Olives from Olomouc, which the scholars customarily link to influence of Jan van Eyck. Extraordinary power of expression is undoubted in the case of the medieval sculptures of the Crucified Christ (e.g. The Crucifixion from Bílovec) and Pietà s; one of the most exquisite among them being the expressive Pietà from the St Dorothy church in Wroclaw.
The most valuable relic of Rudolfine Mannerism on display is the bronze Christ at the Column by Adriaen de Vries (Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe) which, originally, decorated the tomb of Adam Hanniwaldt in Żórawina near Wroclaw. Adam’s brother Andreas was an influential person at the court of Rudolf II and the founder of the altarpiece in the capitular church at Prague’s Vyšehrad. Yet another position of Mannerist art in the exhibition is works by the great Silesian painter, Bartholomäus Strobel, which are inspired by the circle of artists active in Prague in the given period. Out of the significant relics of the late-Renaissance arts and crafts, the recently restored Reliquary bust of Christoph Popel von Lobkowicz (on loan from the collection of the Lobkowicz family) certainly deserves attention.
The dominant of the Baroque section is the gigantic altarpiece canvas by Václav Vavřinec Reiner, The Miracle of St Adalbert at Zielona Góra. It originates from the church in Legnickie Pole which was built by Břevnov-Broumov Benedictines. The oeuvre of the most famous Silesian Baroque painter, Michael Willmann, is presented in the exhibition by several paintings, for example the religious allegory Orpheus (Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe), whose lyrical atmosphere makes it stand out amongst the achievements in painting of that period. Almost unknown in the Czech republic are certain “Silesian” paintings by Peter Brandl, for example the high-quality St Bernard with the crypto-portrait of the Krzeszów Abbot Fritsch. Amongst others, the Prague sculptor Ferdinand Maxmilian Brokoff and his student Antonín Dorazil participated in the decoration of the monastery church in Krzeszów; also their work is present in the exhibition. The Kłodzko master Michael Klahr the Elder from Kłodzko – author of the impressive wood carving St Mary Magdalene on display – was in turn inspired by Braun.
An exceptional exhibition must be accompanied by an exceptional professional catalogue. We therefore present a one, published in Czech (550 CZK), Polish, German and English (650 CZK), in which its editors, Andrzej Niedzielenko, Vít Vlnas and Jan Klípa, collected outcomes of 80 leading Czech and Polish researchers. Also available is a brief guide to the exhibition in Czech (50 CZK) and English (60 CZK).