Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Art in Prague during the Rule of Rudolf II

Date:6. March 1904 – 4. April 1904

Place: Prague, Museum of Decorative Arts

Conception:[Karel Chytil]


The collections of Rudolf II and his Prague court, where the emperor gathered an unprecedented number of prominent artists and scientists from all corners of Europe, were traditionally a subject of much admiration. The reputation of Rudolf’s Prague collections endured for centuries, even though their integrity began to erode soon after the emperor’s death. When the new monarch acceded to the throne, the imperial court moved from Prague to Vienna, taking the most important artworks to the residences there. The invasion of the Swedish army at the end of the Thirty Years’ War completed the demise of Rudolf’s collections, and their last remnants were sold during the infamous auction at Prague Castle at the end of the 18th century. As a result, these famous but virtually unknown collections went long unnoticed by the professional public.

As the only Habsburg ruler to choose Prague as his imperial residence, Rudolf II was perceived positively in Bohemia, so it is not a coincidence that the first exhibition of the art of his era took place in Prague. The show entitled Art in Prague under the Rule of Rudolf II was organized by the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Prague Chamber of Commerce and Trade in 1904. It had a small catalogue, published in both Czech and German. Its text stated that the exhibition focused on the reign of Rudolf II but also presented some of the outstanding works of the preceding and following periods. Although the original plan was to exhibit only engravings along with reproductions of Rudolphine era’s major artworks, the selection eventually expanded to include examples of applied arts from Prague collections. The catalogue contains the list of private owners and custodians of the collections from which the exhibits were loaned, followed by a brief list of the 354 objects on display (including the reproductions and several anonymous works). It has no illustrations. According to the 1904 report of the advisory board at the Museum of Decorative Arts, 4095 visitors came to see the exhibition and the museum earned 186 crowns for catalogue sales (admission was free, and the catalogue cost 40 hallers).

The report issued by the museum's board of trustees evaluated the exhibition positively: “The art of engraving was very well represented, particularly the imperial printmaker Aegidius Sadeler... Of special note were also the numerous portraits of Rudolf II, as well as portraits of artists and outstanding persons of the period. Illuminated manuscripts, printed books decorated with woodcuts, and numerous original decorative objects formed an almost complete picture of the arts in Prague at that time. The museum administrators limited their choice of exhibits to Prague collections. - Modern graphic reproductions came largely from publications and photographs of court museums in Vienna. Several artifacts from the imperial palace were photographed for the exhibition with special permission and assistance of the Director, Dr. J. Schlosser." [Advisory Board Report 1905]

As an accompanying program, the art historian Karel Chytil gave several insightful lectures, which the Museum of Decorative Arts published that same year under the same title as the exhibition.[Chytil 1904] The museum paid 2,470.60 crowns for the publication. Consisting of 65 pages, 32 high-quality photographs, and extensive footnotes, it presented an informed introduction to art at the Rudolphine court. Chytil’s texts, just like the exhibition itself, can be perceived as the beginning of research on Rudolphine art in the Czech lands.

Beket Bukovinská

Works Cited

Zpráva kuratoria 1905: Zpráva kuratoria za správní rok 1904. Uměleckoprůmyslové museum Obchodní a živnostenské komory v Praze, Praha 1905

Chytil 1904: Karel Chytil, Umění v Praze za Rudolfa II./ Kunst in Prag zur Zeit Rudolfs II., Praha / Prag 1904

Further Reading

Christian Beaufort (ed.), Prag um 1600: Kunst und  Kultur am Hofe Kaiser Rudolfs II. (exh. cat.), Freren 1988

Eliška Fučíková (ed.), Rudolf II. a Praha: císařský dvůr a rezidenční město jako kulturní a duchovní centrum střední Evropy / Rudolf II and Prague: The Court and the City (exh. cat.), Praha – Londýn –­ Milán / Prague – London – Milano, 1997

Beket Bukovinská, Co v uměleckém měsíčníku nenajdeme, in: Tomáš Winter – Lenka Bydžovská – Pavla Machalíková – Taťána Petrasová (edd.), Rembrandtova tramvaj: Kubismus, tradice a „jiné“ umění, Praha 2015, pp. 150–157

Exhibiting authors
Reviews in the press

Jes., Umění v Praze za Rudolfa II, Nová česká revue I, 1904, no. 7, 04. 1904, pp. 549–550; Umění v Praze za Rudolfa II (dokončení), Nová česká revue I, 1904, no. 8. 05. 1904, pp. 629–630

Harlas František Xaver

Fr. X. Harlas, Umění v Praze za Rudolfa II., Osvěta XXXIV, 1904, no. 4, pp. 354–356

Jiřík František Xaver

F. X. Jiřík, Výstava „Umění v Praze za Rudolfa II.“, Zvon IV, 1904, no. 28, pp. 391–392

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Umění v Praze za Rudolfa II., Český lid XIII, 1904, p. 332

Anonymous author, Výstavu „Umění v Praze za doby Rudolfa II“, Lidové noviny XII, 1904, no. 56, 9. 3. 1904, p. 4

Anonymous author, Výstava „Umění v Praze za doby Rudolfa II.“, Národní politika XXII, 1904, no. 64, 4. 3. 1904, p. 3

Anonymous author, Uměleckoprůmyslové museum, Národní politika XXII, 1904, no. 71, 11. 3. 1904, p. 3

Anonymous author, Výstava „Umění v Praze za Rudolfa II“, Národní politika XXII, 1904, no. 78, 18. 3. 1904, p. 3

Anonymous author, Výstava „Umění v Praze za Rudolfa II., Národní politika XXII, 1904, no. 92, 1. 4. 1904, p. 3

Anonymous author, V Umělecko-průmysl. muzeu pražském, Volné směry VIII, 1904, no. 1, p. 142

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