Seven Prague locations under consideration for Mucha’s Slav Epic

A square by Prague Congress Centre and a former ice house are among the leading contenders to house Mucha's masterpieces

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 11.09.2020 14:12 (updated on 07.10.2020)

The ongoing saga of where Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic will be permanently placed in Prague has a new chapter.

The Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR Praha) has narrowed the selection to seven places where the 20 canvases of the Slavic Epic could be permanently placed in the future.

The three most promising are Pankrácké náměstí, the Savarin building near Wenceslas Square, and the former ice house Ledárny Braník. The next step is to select a coordinator who will move the final site selection process forward.

savarin palace
Savarin Palace on Na Příkopě / via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Prague’s management asked IPR to prepare an analysis with an overview of locations suitable for the location of a pavilion for the Slav Epic (Slovanská epopej).

The analysis presented individual locations in Prague and assessed them according to uniform criteria. A total of 19 sites were inspected, seven of which were seen as suitable for more detailed consideration.

“Since its inception, the Slavic Epic has been waiting for a dignified permanent placement. We want to end this uncertainty about its future, which is why we have started a discussion with the professional public, which is also attended by the descendants of Alfons Mucha. For the last two years, we have been working together to ensure that this magnificent work finds its home in Prague, according to the author’s wishes,” City Councilor Hana Třeštíková (Praha sobě), responsible for culture and tourism, said.

Ledárny Braník
Ledárny Braník / Wikimedia commons, public domain

The evaluation criteria included availability, estimated complexity and time of preparation, benefit for the given location, and ideological compliance with the work.

“Thanks to the study, we now have a better overview of the places where the Slav Epic could find its home. I am glad that the locations in the center and outside it were included in the narrow selection. I believe that we will be able to choose a place that will correspond to the significance of this work,” Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček (United Force for Prague), responsible for territorial development, said.

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As one of the most suitable options was Pankrácké náměstí, whose land is largely owned by the Prague Congress Centre, whose shareholders include the Czech Republic and the Capital City of Prague. Other suitable places include the Savarin and Ledárny Braník buildings, which are privately owned. In the case of choosing one of these two locations, it would be necessary to establish the form of cooperation with the owners.

Congress Centre Prague
Congress Centre Prague

IPR assumes that it will prepare an urban study of Pankráckého náměstí in the near future. Therefore, it would be appropriate to include the possibility of placing the exposition of the Slavic Epic in the examination.

“I believe that this detailed study will move Prague significantly further in deciding on the location of Mucha’s epic. We want this historically valuable work to be returned to our capital,” IPR director Ondřej Boháč said.

The four other places is among the top seven candidates were the former rail station nádraží Vyšehrad, the national monument at Vítkov, former industrial site Pragovka and the southern city district Háje.

vysehrad station
Nádraží Vyšehrad / via Raymond Johnston

Places not making the short list were: Vyšehrad, Revoluční, Těšnov, vozovna Orionka, jízdárna Pohořelec, Proboštský dvůr, Letnáat muzejní náměstí, two sites in Výstaviště, Strašnická, Letňany and multikino Galaxie.

Another step leading to the selection of the final place for the location of the Slav Epic is the selection of the coordinator, who should initiate the introductory meeting and, if necessary, order more detailed verification studies.

national memorial at vitkov
National Memorial at Vítkov / via Raymond Johnston

Ownership of the Slav Epic had been the subject of a long legal battle, which now seems settled.

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.

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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.

Some of the paintings were displayed 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. Current plans call for it to be temporarily returned to Moravský Krumlov.