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Castles & Chateaux: Rediscovered and Celebrated

Prague Castle Riding School
19. 12. 2014 – 15. 3. 2015

 

Exhibition Organisers
National Heritage Institute of the Czech Republic
Prague Castle Administration

Exhibition Patrons
Miloš Zeman, President of the Czech Republic
Daniel Herman, Minister of Culture Czech Republic
Dominik, Cardinal Duka OP, Archbishop of Prague and Czech Primate

Chief Curator & Author of the Exhibition Guide
Petr Pavelec

The spectacular exhibition Castles & Chateaux: Rediscovered and Celebrated is the first time that the most valuable treasures from Czech castles and country houses have been gathered in one place and at one time. These monuments are witnesses to thousands of years of Czech history, guardians of the greatest wealth, but also landmarks of the countryside and vibrant centres of contemporary culture, rediscovered and celebrated in every generation - not least via poetical and musical works that feature in the accompanying audio-guide for visitors to the exhibition.


Visitors to the exhibition will traverse the thousand-year history of the Czech Lands via ten stages represented by more than six hundred of the most important and most beautiful objects from the collections of castles and country houses administered by the National Heritage Institute and other prominent Czech heritage institutions.

Medieval gates of Karlštejn CastleThe exhibition opens with the monumental medieval gates of Karlštejn Castle, though which the Holy Roman Emperor and Czech King Charles IV would have walked; they have been witness to many skirmishes throughout history and now are opened almost daily to hundreds of thousands of visitors arriving from various corners of the world. Prior to their transfer to Prague Castle they were treated, reinforced and secured against damage; this restoration work was financed by a gift amounting to approximately CZK 70,000 (£ 2000) provided by the English charity, the Friends of Czech Heritage.

Once through the gates of Karlštejn visitors will encounter manuscript copies of the Cosmas Chronicle (Chronica Boëmorum). Written 1119-1125, this is the most important early medieval chronicle in the Czech Lands and the first source for the ancient legends of Forefather Čech and the prophecy of Princess Libuše. During the first weeks of the exhibition manuscripts from the NPÚ castle libraries will be exhibited; however in January 2015 for a few days there will be a unique chance to see the oldest preserved version of this text - the Budyšín (Bautzen) manuscript of the 13th century – loaned by the National Archives, which also contains one of the first depictions of Prague Castle.

The Middle Ages, the period of greatest glory for castles, fortresses and knightly residences governing the land beneath them, are especially illustrated by the Karlštejn hoard, a set of exceptional vessels, costume ornaments and liturgical objects from the chapel of Karlštejn castle. The gilded and brightly coloured metal well head at the castle in Jindřichuv Hradec in turn suggests the transformation of thinking and lifestyle during the Renaissance, when the castle gradually lost its defensive function and transformed into a showcase residence, surrounded by gardens and fields, which eventually evolve into landscape parks. The well head in the Jindřichuv Hradec courtyard was created in the early 17th century as a wedding gift for Joachim of Hradec and Marie of Hohenzollern by the local blacksmith Andreas; his unique work is adorned with angels, the five-petalled rose of the Rožmberk family and mythical animals. There is now a copy in the courtyard of the castle in Jindřichuv Hradec; the original will be at the exhibition at Prague Castle until mid-March 2015.

Reliquary of St. Maurus (detail)The central part of the exhibition invites us to consider things timeless. It includes some of the extraordinary paintings by Master Theodoric from the Chapel of the Holy Rood at Karlštejn Castle. Due to the limited access to this chapel this is a rare opportunity to see some of the greatest medieval portraits made anywhere in Europe. One of the great pieces of goldsmith work, the Reliquary of St. Maurus will also travel to Prague from the West Bohemian castle of Bečov. This Romanesque chasse or house-shaped reliquary, decorated with gilded silver relief figures, precious stones and filigree, and containing the relics of St. John the Baptist, St. Maurus and St. Timothy, was created in in Florennes (now Belgium) in the 13th century and brought to Bohemia in 1880. This very precious shrine, comparable in value with the Crown Jewels, has only been shown to the public in the last 10 years, after the extensive restoration necessary after it was dramatically recovered from under the floorboards of the castle chapel, where it had been hidden by its owners, the Beaufort-Spontins, in 1945.

Great treasures will travel to Prague from the Italianate Renaissance seats of Kratochvíle and Bučovice, built before the Thirty Year War, and thus remarkable survivals, while works of art from the Baroque and Enlightenment periods – a time when many of the nobility began to assemble collections of art and curiousities from across Europe and all the known world – will be lent from Český Krumlov and the great Liechtenstein estates of Lednice and Valtice.

The pen-and-ink drawings of Czech castle ruins made by the great Romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha around 1830 as he wandered the beautiful North Bohemian countryside drawing inspiration for his work will represent the Romantic period, when noble seats were transformed into monuments showing the period of the each family‘s great ancestral glory. The Benz automobile used by Prince Karel V. zu Schwarzenberg demonstrates modern trappings and the transformation of tthe use of castles in the 20th century is augured by the bequest of President T. G. Masaryk, Plečnik’s plans for interventions at Prague Castle and the inscriptions of heritage sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

President Václav Havel and the painting by Master Theodorik„The castles and country houses, along with their collections, that are entrusted to the care of the National Heritage Institute, constitute a unique collection of the best that was created in our country in the past. The NPÚ‘s task is to take care of these treasures, to make them accessible and to present them to the public so that everyone can understand and appreciate the importance of the cultural heritage for our past and our present. The exhibition which is just opening at the historical and contemporary centre of the Czech state, Prague Castle, is unique in the diversity and rarity of its exhibits and I believe that it will brighten the winter months for lovers of history, during which most of the castles are not accessible," says General director of the National Heritage Institute, Naďa Goryczková.

The wealth of castles on the territory of the Czech Republic (one of the most densely castellated countries in the world), reflected in the number and value of the exhibits, is all captured in the artform used to promote the exhibition - a collage of valuables from a over a wide range of time and space that brings together the impressive whole. It is dominated by the Allegory of Pride, one of the most famous works by the Baroque master sculptor Matthias Bernard Braun, which was one of the set of statues of Vices and Virtues lining the path up to the hospital complex at Kuks, established as a early spa in the 17th century by Count Sporck. Next to her is the steel-clad arm from a portrait of Count Collalto by the Baroque painter Paolo Veronese, which is kept at Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou. The gilded frame that surrounds Pride and the count is much older than they are – it belongs to one of the paintings by Master Theodoric adorning the Chapel of the Holy Rood at Karlštejn Castle. The Evangelist St. Matthew, who originally inhabited the frame, has on this occasion moved up to the left up into a much younger frame from the castle at Hrubý Rohozec. The drapery, which encircles the legs of beautiful Pride, partially covers a work by the  renowned artist Oskar Kokoschka, who worked and lived at the Lichnowsky castle, Hradec nad Moravicí. The subject is Mechtilde Lichnowsky, wife of the German Ambassador to London in 1914 who did so much to try and prevent war.  (She was a well-known writer who moved in the circle of Karl Kraus and the Bloomsbury set while in London, and one of the well-known fabrics designed by Roger Fry for the Omega Workshops was named after her.) Crucial support for the entire collage is provided by a column, in reality a small inlaid column, one of the ten holding up the arcades on the side of the Reliquary of St. Maurus.

The publication Castles & Chateaux Rediscovered and Celebrated: Exhibition Guide, edited by the curator of the exhibition Petr Pavelec, will be published concurrently with the exhibition.

CASTLES & CHATEAUX: REDISCOVERED AND CELEBRATED

Curators:
Kateřina Cichrová, Stanislav Hrbatý, Lenka Kalábová, Michal Konečný, Naděžda Kubů, Eva Lukášová, Ludmila Ourodová, Duňa Panenková, Zuzana Vaverková

Assistent to the Chief Curator:
Michaela Váchová

Exhibition Architect:
SGL projekt, s. r. o., Jiří Javůrek, Silvie Bednaříková, Jakub Žák

Graphic Design for the Exhibition:
Josef Janáč (Havas Worldwide Prague)

Installation:
ARTEO CZ, s. r. o., Miroslav Sýkora

Public Relations & Marketing:
Simona Juračková, Jana Tichá, David Šebek

Accompanying Program and Education:
Radka Těšínská Lomičková and team

Contact:

  • Mgr. Jana Tichá, press spokeswoman NPÚ, 257 010 206, 724 511 225, ticha.jana@npu.cz