Forum III / Artes et musae

Prague under Rudolf II
The Destiny of an Eccentric Habsburg

The Habsburg ruler, King of the Bohemian and Hungarian Lands, and Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, whose name is often associated with the disruption of the catholic dynasty, was undoubtedly the most important representative of what is called Mannerism. An eccentric, a madman on the throne and an incapable ruler ... but what was he really like? Answers to this and many other questions are to be found in the book When the Emperor Departs, or the Human Tragedy of Rudolf II through the Eyes of his Contemporaries, written by the historian, CU Pro-Rector and Chairman of the Society of Historians in the CR, Prof. PhDr. Jaroslav Panek, DrSc., and recently published by the Acropolis Press. In an interview with a daily newspaper Prof. Panek said that :"Rudolf II was generally a shy person. He did not like appearing in public, and rarely attended large gatherings. Although his reputation was that of a ruler who had enjoyed military successes, he himself never commanded an army. To a greater extent than his predecessors, he took pride in being a generous patron of art..." Prof. Panek sees this contradictory historical figure chiefly as an intellectual whose inner turmoil reflected the mounting tensions of the modern age.

Rudolf II and Prague

For those interested in a detailed account of the Rudolphine period and the circumstances of Rudolf II's rule, we can only recommend Professor Panek's book. Even for others, however, we should advise a visit to the biggest exhibition of its kind, which is central to this year's cultural calendar in Prague: "Rudolf II and Prague" with the subtitle "The Imperial Court and Residential City of Rudolf II as the Cultural and Spiritual Heart of Central Europe". Shortly before the opening of this unique three-month exhibition (open from the 30th of May to the 7th of September 1997) the General Commissioner Dr. Eliska Fucikova declared that "never before has so comprehensive an exhibition been held in the Czech Lands..." The Rudolphine exhibition has a broader time frame than the dates of Rudolf's reign (1576 - 1612), showing how the ground was prepared for the culminating epoch in 16th century history that began with the emperor's move to Prague as his seat of residence. Indeed, the exhibition reflects the continuities of a whole century (roughly 1530 - 1634). The exhibits for the unique project have come not only from Czech state galleries, museums and private collections, but from all over the world, and as far as California. A substantial contribution to the exhibition consists in loans from the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna. Although the commissioners for the exhibition have had to resign themselves to the absence of some precious works, they have managed to bring together around 2,600 exceptional objects, and to exhibit them in the environment in which they were originally created. Visitors can see the beauties of the Rudolf II Exhibition, held under the aegis of President Vaclav Havel and the Council of Europe, in parts of the Imperial Court (four exhibition spaces in the Prague Castle: The Picture Gallery, the Imperial Stables, the Summer Palace of Queen Anna and the Ball Court) and the Residential City (the Wallenstein Riding School and the Museum of Applied Arts). A major catalogue will be published for the exhibition in three language editions: English, German and Czech. There will also be a series of accompanying events in and outside Prague. Comprehensive details may be found on the exhibition's internet pages.

(alk, mich)

(Volume III, Number 12, 1997)

Hollar Jubilee

The Hollar Association of Czech Artist Printmakers (ACAP) is this year commemorating the eightieth year of its existence. There is no artistic organisation quite like it in the world, either in terms of longevity or its membership (of 150 leading Czech printmakers). Its past members have included such first-class artists as Max Svabinsky, T. F. Simon, Frantisek Kupka, Jan Zrzavy, Frantisek Tichy, Karel Svolinsky and many others. The membership is now at an all time high, and brings together the largest number of Czech printmakers for four generations. Since 1990 the association has resumed exhibition work (from 1971 - 1989 its activities were banned). Every year thirteen exhibitions have been held in the Hollar Gallery on Smetana Boulevard, introducing the public to the rich legacy of Czech printmakers and to current work in this media. This autumn members of the Hollar will be showing their work in an association exhibition at the Old Town Hall. An exquisite publication, Czech Prints of the 20th Century will be issued to accompany the Jubilee, which the ACAP marked by a celebratory evening in the Magna Aula of the Carolinum on Thursday the 12th of June. The celebration was held under the aegis of the Czech Ministry of Culture and the CU Rector. It was attended not only by members of the association but also by numerous figures from Czech political and cultural life, including the Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Academy of Sciences Rudolf Zahradnik and rectors of academies of art. In an address, the Chairman of ACAP, ac. painter Vladimir Suchanek spoke about the social role of the Hollar association. He pointed out, for example, that members of the association had created the symbols of the state - the state emblem and presidential standard - and also provided designs for stamps and banknotes (O. Kulhanek had now taken the baton from A. Mucha and M.Svabinsky). In conclusion, V. Suchanek declared that "print-making not only elevates the human spirit, but also poses questions of the meaning of human life...without this search, the face of contemporary printmaking would not be complete."

The host of the evening celebration, CU Rector Prof. Karel Maly, expressed his admiration for the "fruitful and interesting work of the association" and, in the name of all admirers and fellowers of art, thanked members of Hollar for all that they had accomplished. The Rector also expressed his appreciation for the gifts that the artist were donating to the university on the occasion of its 650th anniversary. "These gifts will not only contribute to the success of the celebration, but will also give further substance to the idea of the mutual linkage between science and art," Prof. Maly said. After the Rector had proposed a toast, there was a short speech by Jiri Machalicky, Director of the Print Collection of the National Gallery. The programme continued with a concert of works by Beethoven and J. Vent (on motifs from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro). Members of the Hollar accepted the Rector's invitation to a guided tour of the Carolinum, and the celebratory evening ended with a reception in the formal rooms of the Carolinum.

Text and Photo Forum: Michaela Zindelova

Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus was one of those to congratulate the members of Hollar at their jubilee celebration. With him in the picture, from right to left: CU Pro-Rector Prof. Josef Koutecky, CU Rector Prof. Karel Maly, and Hollar Chairman ac. painter Vladimir Suchanek.

12.7.1997, 19:13