While there are many interesting and historical sites within the city of Prague, it is the city it’s self that is perhaps the most artistic. The buildings of Prague are visual by nature, representing painting, sculpture, mosaic, glasswork, ironwork, and many architectural styles from centuries of artists and builders. Rather than paintings on canvas in museums, Prague’s artistic styles lie often within the buildings themselves. From the churches to public and private buildings, the architecture of Prague is one which has withstood centuries (Meilach, 55).
Within this vast array of architectural style, one can easily see many influences the artists used to create their wonderful structures. One particular style stands out in buildings from before the fourteenth century through current day structures, that of the art of Bohemia. The art styles of the Bohemian culture are prominent in many of the architectural greats within Prague (Robbins, 317). This paper will discuss some of those sites, and will show how Bohemian art styles have influenced those particular buildings.
During the mid-fourteenth century, the royalty of Europe began to foster ideas that the architecture of certain areas should not only represent the artistic styles of the era, but also those styles occurring within individual regions. As such, Bohemian painting quickly rose to the front of the artistic scene of Europe. Paintings within architecture quickly rise in popularity. Panel art prior to the Bohemian influence was characterized by softly modeled three-dimensional beings, generally consisting of bulky figures and a natural presentation. This art was typical of painters such as Master Bertram of Hamburg (Radocsay, 25).
Bohemian style panel paintings were far different than these predecessors. The bulky figures of the French artists turned into slight, slender representations of human figures, many of whom were religious in origin. Often clouded in semi-darkness and mystical scenes, these representations were a part of the Bohemian style, and quickly made their way in to the architectural design of Prague (Radocsay, 32).
Bohemian art styles of this period sought to find connections between phases of development. Combining naturalism and Byzantine icons into architecture, the city of Prague brought together some of the main styles of Bohemian culture within their structures (Kren, “Bohemia”). Panel paintings, such as the Madonna of the St. Vitus Cathedral, show distinct influence by Bohemian art. The image, contained within an ornate frame as a panel of the cathedral, is a full half-length representation of the Virgin holding her Child. While the figure, slender and slight, shows a distinctly Bohemian nature, the manner in which Mary is showing her child is Roman. However, further Bohemian representation can be found in the gentle posture of Mary, and the radiated light of her Child (Marx, “The Madonna of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague”).
In addition to this type of artwork representation within the architecture of Prague, Bohemian sculpture art can also be seen as a distinct influence. Bohemian sculptures at the time began to separate the light from the dark, in terms of color. Firmer, brighter colors began to be used, and as separated images, these sculptures began to almost move within their confined spaces (Kren, “Bohemia”). A representation of this influence, too, can be found within the Madonna of St. Vitus Cathedral. The image of Mary’s fingers embedded into the flesh of the child almost appears as sculptured image, thanks to the use of color separation. In addition, the glossy enamel of the panel furthers the illusion of movement within the (Marx, “The Madonna of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague”).
Still further representations of Bohemian influence of the architecture of Prague can be seen within the Church of Virgin Mary Victorious in Prague. The building, built in 1611 as the Holy Trinity Church, was reworked in 1636 as Mary Victorious. The church is a resounding example of Bohemian art within architecture. Originally based on Roman architecture, the structure was renovated to represent a more Bohemian culture ambiance. Introducing a single-nave layout, typical of the Bohemian simplicity, the church brought a sense of anti-reformation. The rebuilding also included a paneling of the frontage of the structure with traditional Bohemian artworks of religious icons (Official Site of the Czech Republic, “Church of Virgin Mary Victorious”).
Still further, the rebuilding of the church added elaborate glasswork ornamentation to almost all areas of the structure, including mosaic windows, ornate framed wall panels and structure outlines. This glasswork, a staple of the Bohemian art style, brings with it a sense of grandness and elaboration that many other styles within the area do not convey (Official Site of the Czech Republic, “Church of Virgin Mary Victorious”).
Still another representation of Bohemian art within architectural styles of Prague can be seen in Prague Castle. From the spacious Royal Palace with the painted inlaid panels, to the Vladislav Hall displaying Bohemian glasswork, the Castle is a perfect example of Bohemian representation within architecture. The St. Vitus Cathedral, mentioned previously, is located within the Castle as well. Further, the St. George’s Basilica, with the St. George’s Convent, house not only Golden Lane, with 24 small houses styled with the subtle archways and distinct color patterns of Bohemian art, but also house the oldest collections of Bohemian painting and sculptures within Prague (Radocsay, 37).
It is easy to see why Prague has become one of the most , architecturally, in all of Europe. From the glasswork and panels of many structures, it is also clear that styles of Bohemian art certainly played a part in the creation of many historical buildings. The workings of light against dark, color on color, and images of religious icons are some of the best known Bohemian inspired works in all of Europe, and show clearly the talents of those who inspired the architecture.
Kren, Emil. “Bohemia.” The History of the Style. 2003. Prague National Gallery. 19 April 2003. Prague National Gallery. http://www.wga.hu/tours/gothic/history.html#bohemia.
Marx, Dan. “The Madonna of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.” Prague National Gallery. 2003. Prague National Gallery. 19 April 2003. http://www.wga.hu/html/m/master/xunk_bo/madvitus.html.
Meilach, Dona. “Prague: The City is the Museum.” Arts and Activities 129.2 (2001): 55-57.
Official Site for the Czech Republic. “Church of Virgin Mary Victorious.” Bohemia and Moravia Baroque Architecture. 2003. Czech Republic. 19 April 2003. Official Site of the Czech Republic. http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/Arts/Architec/BaroqueArchitecture/BohemiaMoraviaBaroqueArchitecture/BohemiaMoraviaBaroqueArchitecture.htm.
Radocsay, Denes. Gothic Panel Painting in Hungary. Budapest: Corvena Press, 1963.
Robbins, Kate. “Three Days in Prague.” Contemporary Review 270.1577 (1997): 317-319.