Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/177

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
The Bohemian Review

views of Bohemia, Rhineland, Holland and England; again perfect representations of muffs, shells, butterflies, the acme of the engraver’s technique. His etchings have also a considerable value for the history of culture; under this heading belong some of his famous views of cities, especially the beautiful view of Prague with the touching inscription: “Wenceslaus Hollar a Lewengruen et Bareyt hanc Regni Bohemiae Metropolim, Patriam suam, ex monte Sti. Laurentii A. 1636 exactissime delineavit et aqua forti in hac forma aeri insculpsit Antwerpiae A. 1649”, in English: “Václav Hollar of Loewengruen and Bareyt depicted most exactly this metropolis of the Bohemian kingdom, his native land, from the mount of St. Lawrence in 1636, and in this form etched into copper at Antwerp in 1649”. One can feel how love shook his hand, when he wrote the words Patriam Meam. Another engraving of great interest is his Aula Veneris, published in London in 1644, showing one hundred women’s costumes. The title page states “Wenceslaus Hollar Bohemus”, the best proof of his nationality, for if Hollar had considered himself to be a German, he would not have used such a designation of himself on the title page.

Artists that remained in Bohemia had to return into the bosom of the Catholic Church that won the land together with the Emperor at the White Mountain. Of these men the greatest was Karel Škréta Sotnovský of Zázvořice. He was born in Prague in 1604 and died there in 1674. His mother who would not deny her faith left the country in 1627 to go into exile. Her son who studied painting remained in Prague and conformed to the Catholic Church. His artistic training was obtained in Italy, whence he came back as an artist of great merit. In Bohemia he introduced a new era in painting, and his numerous pictures include the best that was done at that period any where in Europe outside of Italy. Many of his altar pieces are in the Prague churches; in the Týn church is the Annunciation of Virgin Mary, possibly his best work; in the same church is his St. Luke, who according to tradition bears the painter’s likeness, while the Virgin Mary here preserves the features of Škréta’s wife. Four of his paintings are in the church of St. Thomas; one, Christ on the Cross, in the church of St. Nicholas; another famous one, Mary Magdalen, in St. Peter’s church, while many smaller towns of Bohemia, like Bechyně, Louny, Mělník, Strakonice, etc., as well as picture galleries, have examples of Škréta’s genius.

It is true, though, that Škréta introduced an important change into the art of Bohemia, namely, a departure from the Slav foundation and the imitation of the Bolognese and Neapolitan schools, while the work of his successors marks the period of southern barocco in Bohemia.

The first half of the eighteenth century brought forward a number of great names, men who made Bohemian barocco famous. A great change had come over the country. At this period, sketched in such a masterly manner by Jirásek in his “Temno” (Darkness), the nobility and clergy were the nation; the lower classes did not count, their taste approved everything that the upper classes favored, and so the luxury and pomp of the barocco were in style. The power of the sovereign, of the church and of the nobility was at its highest. A revolution was inevitable and forces preparing it were already busy, but did not yet manifest themselves. The nobility of Bohemia was foreign nobility, German, Walloon, Spanish, Italian; their ancestors were military adventurers to whom Emperor Ferdinand granted confiscated estates of the Czech rebels. The men who owned the soil of Bohemia in the first part of the eighteenth century were eager to satisfy their vanity and impress with their lordly magnificence their peasant subjects. The Catholic Church was closely allied to the feudal nobles. The influence of the Church was wielded principally by the Jesuits, and barocco was commonly known as the “Jesuit style”. The Jesuits looked upon the bigness and pomp of their ecclesiastical structures as eloquent evidence of their victory over the heretics; besides, barocco agreed with the easy regimen extended to all who were obedient sons of the Church. The outside alone mattered; self-denial was not demanded, and the Church put the stamp of approval upon the pleasures of life. This attitude manifests itself in painting and statuary by the noble female figures that are found in so many over-decorated churches. A great period of al fresco paintings had come upon Bohemia; wide-spread ceilings and walls of the churches are covered with religious scenes. The greatest of the painters in this line was Rainer who was related to Tiepoli’s school.