Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic may return to Moravský Krumlov for temporary display

The painting cycle may leave Prague until a permanent home is found

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 13.09.2019 10:43:11 (updated on 13.09.2019) Reading time: 4 minutes

The Culture Committee of Prague City Hall has recommended temporarily returning Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic to Moravský Krumlov to be displayed for five years. The exhibition could begin in the summer of 2020.

City Councilor Hana
Třeštíková (Praha sobě) presented members of the Culture
Committee with options for the temporary placement of the Slav Epic,
and the committee supported exhibiting the 20 large-scale paintings
at the chateau in Moravský Krumlov. Councilor Třeštíková also
wants to hold an expert meeting on November 8, where long-term
placement should be discussed.

The cycle of paintings depicting Slavic history and legends were displayed in Moravský Krumlov from 1963 to 2011, and had been the town’s main tourist attraction. They had been hidden in the town to protect them from communist hardliners after World War II. The City of Prague regained possession of the paintings after a protracted legal battle.

slav epic
Slavs in their Original Homeland. Wikimedia Commons / public domain

“It is good news
for Czech culture that we have come significantly closer to
re-exhibiting the Slav Epic. All options for permanent placement
would take years [to implement], and during that time the work would
have to wait hidden from visitors in a depository, so we have been
intensively looking for temporary exposure options,” Třeštíková
said.

“Experts
recommended placing the work for five years at the chateau in
Moravský Krumlov, I will now present such a proposal to the Prague
Assembly, which will decide on the placement. The Slav Epic is
important not only to Prague citizens, and it will be an honor if it
helps to develop our culture in the local region,” she added.

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Some 67 senators and
John Mucha, the grandson of the artist, supported a petition behind
placement in Moravský Krumlov.

slav epic
Holy Mount Athos. Wikimedia Commons / public domain

The plans for the
renovation of the Moravský Krumlov chateau were presented to the
committee members by Moravský Krumlov Mayor Tomáš Třetina (TOP
09). According to meters in the exhibition hall, it already meets the
necessary climatic conditions for exhibiting the work, further
adjustments to the north wing should be completed during the spring
of next year.

In June, Mayor Třetina expects trial operations and exhibition of the works by 2020. The surroundings of the chateau are also ready for visitors. The south wing of the chateau will undergo renovation in the coming years, but the works will not be exhibited there.

“I want to
emphasize that the exhibition in Moravský Krumlov is temporary, the
most important thing is still to find is a permanent location in
Prague. Therefore, in November I will organize a meeting with experts
and Mucha’s heirs so that after 100 years the loan to Moravský
Krumlov will be the last loan, and the work can be permanently
exhibited in our capital,” Councilor Třeštíková said.

slav epic
After the Battle of Grunwald. Wikimedia Commons / public domain

The second option
for temporary placement was the chateau in Zbraslav. The Curry-Bartoň
family, which owns the chateau, showed interest in a long-term lease.
However, the property relations of the chateau are burdened with
inheritance proceedings, which could endanger the temporary
placement. In addition substantial investments would be required in
infrastructure and other modifications.

The City Council
also examined the possibility of exhibiting the cycle in Veletržní
palác, but due to the exhibition plans it would not have been
possible any time soon. The Prague Castle Riding School was also
considered, but the security measures and roadblocks would make it
difficult. The option was not discussed with the Prague Castle
Administration.

Some of the paintings were displayed in at the end of 2018 and start of 2019 in Prague’s Obecní dům and in Brno, South Moravia, following a successful tour of Japan. The entire epic was last displayed in Prague at Veletržní palác in 2016.

The coronation of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan as East Roman Emperor. Wikimedia Commons / public domain

The Slav Epic was
painted between 1910 and ’28. Mucha devoted the latter half of his
artistic career to this work. The idea was formed in 1899, while he
was working on the design for the interior of the Pavilion of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, which had been commissioned by the
Austro-Hungarian government for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. In
preparation, he traveled widely through the Balkans, researching the
history and customs of the Slavs.

A key role in
creating the paintings was played by Mucha’s American patron Charles
Crane, who offered him $100,000 to finally paint the works.

The Slav Epic was
created in Mucha’s rented studio at Zbiroh castle, The finished
canvases were turned over to the City of Prague as they were
completed.

slav epic
Alfons Mucha working on the cycle in 1920. Wikimedia Commons / public domain

In 1919, the first
11 canvases were displayed in Prague’s Klementinum. In 1921, five of
the paintings were shown in New York and Chicago. In 1928, the
complete cycle was displayed for the first time in Veletržní palác.

Several places in
Prague have been suggested for long-tern display. Two options for
purpose-built galleries at Těšnov have long been discussed.

The Lapidarium in Výstaviště was championed by the previous City Hall administration. The pedestal of the former Stalin Monument at Letná, the National Monument at Vítkov, Letohrádek Hvězda, Colloredo-Mansfeldský palác, the Klementinum, and Letohrádek královny Anny (Belvedere) had also been suggested at one time or another.

Prague 1 proposed a gold-tone egg-shape gallery that it had been planning to build at the end of Revoluční Street adjacent to Štefánikův most. The city at the time was not interested in that location, and plans to build the golden egg have stalled.

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