The Bulgarian Tsar Simeon. Wikimedia Commons /public domain

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

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.

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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.

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“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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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