Baroque in Bohemia - Permanent Exhibition of the Collection of Old Masters of the National Gallery in Prague
Lenders and partner institutions:
National Museum in Prague, Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, Municipal Museum in Prague, Senate of the Parliament of the CR, National Heritage Institute – regional workplaces in Pilsen, Pardubice, České Budějovice, and Central Bohemia, Prague; South Bohemian Museum in České Budějovice, Regional Gallery in Liberec, Town Council in Luže, the parishes of the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese in Prague and dioceses of Litoměřice, Pilsen, Budějovice, and Hradec Králové; the monastic orders of the Benedictines (Prague– Břevnov), Premonstratensians (Prague – Strahov; Nová Říše, Teplá), Friars Minor – Franciscans (Prague – New Town), friars preachers – Dominicans (Prague – Old Town), Barefoot Carmelites (Prague – Lesser Town), and private lenders.
Permanent Exhibition of Sculpture and Painting
On the three floors of the reconstructed building of the palace, the new permanent exhibition presents about 160 sculptural exhibits and 280 pieces of late Renaissance and Baroque painting, created in the territory of the lands of the Crown of Bohemia from the late 16th to the end of the 18th centuries.
As early as 2002, the interior disposition of the building of Schwarzenberg Palace and the distribution of the rooms designed for the needs of the permanent exhibition, „Baroque in Bohemia“ resulted in a decision to present the collections of sculpture and painting separately. The monumental stone sculptures „welcome“ the visitors when they enter the building. These include the renowned stone sculptures by Matthias Bernhard Braun from the attic of the Clam-Gallas Palace in Prague (1714-1716) and the two Angels from the hermitage near Lysá nad Labem, accompanied by the Moor figures from the gate of Kounice Castle, created by Maximilian Brokof. Three interconnected rooms present then en exhibition conceived according to traditional chronology and stylistic periods of the Early, High and Late Baroque. For the first time in such an extent, the adjoining space shows the best-quality surviving examples of everyday workshop practice of art studios, particularly those of the 18th century: sculptural and painting sketches, modellos, authorial and workshop replicas and copies.
The main installation on the 2nd and 1st floors of the palace is based on high-quality paintings, mostly known from the previous exhibition spaces in St George’s Convent. The collection was again conceived according to the accepted chronology in the sequence of stylistic cycles, spanning the time from the Late Renaissance, represented by the production of the artists active at the Prague court of Emperor Rudolf II, to the waning of Baroque culture in the late 18th century. The new exhibition includes all the great names of local fine arts of the 17th-18th centuries, with the emphasis on key figures. Well-balanced ensembles thus present the paintings by Hans von Aachen, Bartholomaeus Spranger, Roelant Savery, Michael Willmann, Johann Christoph Liška, Wenzel Lorenz Reiner, Anton Kern, Johann Peter Molitor, and Norbert Grund. The world of late Renaissance collections – cabinets of arts and curiosities – will be recalled in a partial reconstruction of such a collection with characteristic examples of small pictures and sculptures, and samples of the period crafts. The most important figures of Baroque painting in Bohemia – Karel Škréta and Peter Brandl – have intentionally been allocated prestigious spaces which will do justice to the qualities of both the ensembles of paintings, by right considered the gems of the Gallery’s Collection of Old Masters. One of the rooms on the 1st floor also presents in deliberate confrontation the portraits by Peter Brandl, and those by Johann Kupecký. Both painters explored similar (French and Dutch) sources of inspiration found in European portraiture. A specific form of „panel“ installation of paintings, with the principle of contrast and symmetry in mind, of the pendant pairs (compagnons) – be it landscapes, still lifes or figural compositions – is to recall the character of the period aristocratic picture galleries, most popular and wide-spread around 1700. It was precisely in the interiors of the city or country residences of local aristocrats that rare artifacts were also to be found, including cabinet sculptural pieces, made mostly of exclusive materials, such as bronze, ivory, tortoise-shell, marble and alabaster. Painting collections of 18th-century artists are accompanied by carefully selected samples of small-size carving of definitive character, coming from the Prague studios of Franz Ignaz Weiss, Karl Joseph Hiernle, Johann Anton Quitainer, and Ignaz Franz Platzer, installed in modern glasscases with perfect lighting.
Cabinet of Prints and Drawings
The Collection of Prints and Drawings (SGK) of the National Gallery in Prague, which is situated in Kinsky Palace in the Old Town Square, keeps some 300,000 prints and 60,000 drawings from the Middle Ages to the present. The earliest works there include pieces of medieval book illumination or early prints, there are also prints and drawings from the Renaissance period in Europe, a significant collection of Mannerist drawings, etc. In 17th century art, particular attention should be paid to the ensemble of the Hollareum, one of the world’s largest collections of Wenceslas Hollar’s works. As regards Bohemian Baroque artists, the SGK keeps, for example, a collection of drawings by Karel Škréta. Other periods of art until the present are also sufficiently represented, and we can find works of both Czech and foreign artists there.
Artworks on paper are handicapped in that they are sensitive to the influences of climate and light, and may thus easily be destroyed. This is why they can only be exhibited for a precisely limited time and in subdued lighting. The National Gallery therefore organizes small short-term exhibitions of prints and drawings, the „cabinets of prints and drawings“, which accompany long-term exhibitions.
Whereas modern works are regularly shown at the Trade Fair Palace, old masters have so far been assigned only a small space at Sternberg Palace. With the opening of Schwarzenberg Palace, the Collection of Prints and Drawings has gained a possibility to organize small exhibitions here, in a broader selection. On the occasion of this permanent exhibition’s opening, the SGK has prepared a short exhibition cycle of presentations of masterpieces from its collections starting with the earliest works, to the end of the 18th century. In three parts, always three months in duration, the visitors will be presented with a selection of the most important drawings and prints from the Gallery’s holdings.
Programmes for Visitors
The Department of Education of the Collection of Old Masters offers a number of accompanying programmes for the new permanent exhibition. In collaboration with the Collection’s curatorial staff, a cycle of lectures has been prepared, while educational programmes for various age groups have been designed for schools. Schwarzenberg Palace has a studio at its disposal, which will also be used as a lecture hall. By the end of 2008 a haptic exhibition entitled, The Touches of the Baroque will be open to the public in the basement, designed particularly for visitors with visual handicaps.