The exhibition called “Prague, The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437”, which was shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and about which we wrote back in October, can now be seen at the Prague Castle under the name “Charles IV – Emperor by the Grace of God”. It runs from February 16 through May 21. Jeff and I went to see it a few days after it opened.
A Little Confusion
I feel that both of the exhibition titles are a bit misleading. Had I gone to the Met, I would have expected a collection of exhibits on “Prague in the Middle Ages”. When we headed to the Prague Castle last week, I looked forward to seeing lots of artifacts directly related to “Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor” – his decrees and writings, his garments, jewels, things he took on his travels with him… In fact, the exhibition is neither about Prague, nor about Charles IV. It is important to read the full title of the event because the most fitting description of what you will see is contained in the part that follows below the main header.
|CHARLES IV – EMPEROR BY THE GRACE OF GOD
Culture and Art in the Reign of the Last of the Luxembourgs 1347 – 1437
Jeff and I aren’t the only ones who didn’t bother reading the all-important small print. I know about Czechs who are planning on taking the train across the country to see “the Charles exhibition” (toho Karla as they say).
So What Is It About?
The exhibition takes place in two locations: the Prague Castle Picture Gallery and the Theresian Wing.
• Prague Castle Picture Gallery
The picture gallery houses a collection of mainly religous artifacts from the 14th and 15th century. The prevailing types of exhibits on display are:
– Medieval panel painting: images of the Madonna, portraits (none of Charles IV), altar decorations
– Wooden and stone sculpture: Madonna with Child, crucifixion, pietà, saints, altar statues
– Illuminated manuscripts: manuscript of a Czech Old Testament, liturgical books, typography, page decoration
– Gilded artifacts and smith craft: busts of saints (St. Peter, St. Ludmila, St. John the Baptist, etc.), reliquary crosses, monstrance
– Stained glass: coats of arms, saints
– Textile: mainly the chasuble (liturgical garment)
Some of the artists whose works are presented are Master Theodoric, Petr Parléř (the architect of St. Vitus Cathedral), Master of the Michle Madonna, Master of the Třeboň Altar, and a few others. The artist is unknown in many cases.
• Theresian Wing
The exposition in the Theresian Wing is called “Life at the Court of Charles IV”. It contains exhibits of a non-religious nature and items used in people’s daily lives across the kingdom. You can see fragments of stone pillars and tiles, mill stones (including a large mill stone that was used in the building of Charles Bridge), smithcraft and woodcraft objects, household equipment, tools, shoes, etc. There is also a copy of the textiles that were retrieved from the tomb of Charles IV. The exposition is accompanied by interesting written commentary (in Czech and English) about life in the 14th and 15th century.
Each ticket comes with an excellent CD-ROM, which alone is worth the cost of admission. It is available in several languages and contains detailed information and high quality photos of more than 100 of the exhibits. It also includes information on medieval Prague and Europe of the Luxembourgs (both with interactive maps), Charles IV (his ancestors, wives, personality, important activities, etc.), the reign of his sons and the late Luxembourg era. A historical timeline covers the historical events, figures and important milestones of art and culture in the period 1306 – 1498 in the Holy Roman Empire, the Czech Kingdom, the rest of Europe and the world.
The exhibition website is at www.karel-iv.cz.