Collection of Old Masters
The exhibition in the Sternberg Palace was opened to all the art lovers after an overall installation in the years 2002 and 2003. The first part encompasses the works of art from the ancient Greece and Rome. The first floor exhibition halls further house the famous works of 14th - 16th century art that come from the Konopište Castle collection of Archduke Franz Ferdinand d´Este. It contains the works of older Tuscan masters (B. Daddi, Lorenzo Monaco), the works of Venetian school (Vivarini workshop) and the masterpieces of Florentine Mannerism (A. Bronzino, A. Allori). The icons on display offer the examples of works from the most of the important Mediterranean and East European centres.
On the second floor of the palace are exhibited the works of Italian, Spanish, French and Netherlandish masters from the 16th to the 18th century. The paintings by the most famous European artists such as Tintoretto, Ribera, Tiepolo, El Greco, Goya, Rubens and van Dyck can be found here. The collection of Flemish and Dutch masters dominated by works of Rembrandt, Hals, Terborch, Ruysdale and van Goyen is characterized by an extraordinary quality. The separate cabinet installed in the first half of the 19th century style reminds us of the famous collector and patron Josef Hoser, to whom the National Gallery owes for the essential part of its collection of old masters.
The ground floor houses the exhibition of German and Austrian art of the 16th to 18th century. Besides many masterpieces by e. g. Lucas Cranach or Hans Baldung called Grien one can find here one of the most famous works of the European painting The Feast of the Rosary by Albrecht Dürer. The painting was completed in Venice in 1506 and later it was purchased and trasferred to Prague by Emperor Rudolf II.
The exhibition is supplemented by chamber collections of arts and crafts and small sculpture of the period. The drawings and prints of the past centuries are on display in the cabinet of prints and drawings. On the walls and ceilings of the exhibition halls can be seen again the original murals exposed.
Austrian and German Art of the Second Half of the 19th Century
The exhibition Austrian and German Art of the Second Half of the 19th Century – Part II presents another brilliant set of German and Austrian artworks from the Collection of 19th-century Art. The presentation includes work by artists such as Friedrich von Amerling, Hans Makart, Mihály Munkácsy, Hans Canon, Franz von Lenbach, Adolph von Menzel, Gabriel Max, Wilhelm Leibl and many others. The open, cosmopolitan society of the second half of the 19th century in the lands of the Austrian Empire (the Austro-Hungarian monarchy after 1867) and in Germany created favourable conditions for fine arts to develop. Artists often travelled not only to study at the Academies in Vienna, Munich, Berlin or Düsseldorf, but also to live and work in large art centres. Art was gradually liberated from established stereotypes and became an open platform where new themes and modes of expression were sought to enrich the traditional ones.
The Austrian and German paintings on display focus on figural painting of the second half of the 19th century, presenting its many genres including the art of portraiture. Monumental historical themes and scenes from real life representing both the socio-critical genre and dramatic moments in life were especially popular. Canvasses with spiritism and occultism motifs became a contemporary phenomenon. Historism, which was highly in-demand and widespread at the time, translated themes of worldly society; popular themes included rendezvous in gardens or lavishly furnished interiors. Portraits based on the late-Biedermeier tradition moved in the direction of realism. Some artworks highlighted the portrait's representative and social functions, while others were psychological studies or private sketches.
Return of the Rembrandt
Thanks to a generous grant from Bank of America Merrill Lynch through its global Art Conservation Project, the only Rembrandt painting in the Czech Republic has been returned for display at the Šternberk Palace in Prague following extensive research and restoration that took almost a year to complete.
The exhibition of the restored Rembrandt is accompanied by the After Rembrandt project, presenting the works of four contemporary artists (Štefan Tóth, Jakub Špaňhel, Vladimír Véla and Alžběta Josefy) who have created artistic responses to Rembrandt’s painting. These which will be installed opposite Rembrandt’s painting and although they all follow the same format, each one is a product of the artist’s unique invention. This reception (or appropriation) of Old Masters is a standard phenomenon in art and many renowned galleries have in their programmes the combination of so-called old art with contemporary art. In some of its exhibition projects and accompanying programmes the National Gallery not only seeks parallels in various time layers in art, but also actually initiates the creation of the individual reflections of visitors of all ages. The aim is to show the public that old art is a constant source of inspiration for fresh generations of artists, that it has its potential and significance for the present day and is not merely a collection of artefacts preserved on the walls of exhibition halls.