The Slav Epic
The Slav Epic (in Czech: Slovanská epopej) is a cycle of 20 large canvases painted by Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha between 1910 and 1928. The cycle depicts the history of Czechs and other Slavic peoples. In 1928, after finishing his monumental work, Mucha bestowed the cycle to the city of Prague on condition that the city built a special pavilion for it. As of 2010, the work was a part of the permanent exhibition at the chateau in the town of Moravský Krumlov in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic.
As of July 2012, all 20 works are displayed together on the ground floor of the Veletržní Palace, in an exhibition organized by the National Gallery in Prague (exhibition catalogue: Alfons Mucha - Slovanská epopej).
Mucha spent many years working on The Slav Epic cycle, which he considered his life's fine art masterpiece. He had dreamed of completing a series such as this, a celebration of Slavic history, since the turn of the 19th century, however, his plans were limited by financial constraints. In 1909, he managed to obtain grants by an American philanthropist and a keen admirer of the Slavic culture, Charles Richard Crane. He began by visiting the places which he intended to depict in the cycle, such as Russia, Poland and the Balkans, including the Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos. Additionally, he consulted historians about the details of historical events in order to ensure an accurate depiction. In 1910, he rented a part of the castle in Zbiroh and began working on the series.
Mucha continued working on the cycle for 18 years. He gradually handed over the finished paintings to the city of Prague. In 1919, the first part of the series, comprising eleven canvases, was displayed in the Prague's Clementinum. In 1921, five of the paintings were shown in New York and Chicago to the great acclaim of the audience.
After finishing the work in 1928, the complete cycle was displayed in the Trade Fair Palace in Prague. It was the first exhibition of the work in the Czechoslovak capital.
Alfons Mucha died in July, 1939. Shortly before his death he was interrogated by Gestapo as an important exponent of public life in Czechoslovakia. During World War II, the Slav Epic was wrapped and hidden away to prevent seizure by the Nazis.
Following the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948 and subsequent communist takeover of the country, Mucha was considered a decadent and bourgeois artist, estranged from the ideas of socialist realism. The building of a special pavilion for the exposition of the cycle became irrelevant and unimportant for the new regime. After the war, the paintings were moved to Moravský Krumlov by a group of local patriots. The cycle went on display in the chateau in 1963.
The city of Prague has waged a decade-long legal battle over the work which intensified in early 2010. Much consideration was given to the idea of relocating The Slav Epic from Moravský Krumlov, (where it has been displayed for about 45 years), to Prague. It was thought that Prague, a city frequented by countless thousands of tourists, would be able to attract increased attention to and interest in the series of paintings. However, there is no suitable space for the work in Prague's galleries. Therefore, some of the Czech state institutions, such as the Office of the President of the Czech Republic, found it preferable to keep the paintings in their existing location since there have been few problems with the space at which they are currently displayed. Nevertheless, in early 2010, the city of Prague requested the return of the Slav Epic for restoration works and subsequent display. However, the Mucha Foundation, run by the artist's grandson John Mucha and his mother Geraldine, blocked the move as it would simply be a provisional measure. The City of Prague argued that not Alfons Mucha but Charles R. Crane was the owner of the paintings and that he has donated the cycle to the City of Prague. According to the newspaper Mladá fronta DNES, the information was proved by contracts found in the city archive. The Foundation is in talks with the City of Prague for the construction of a permanent home for the work.
On 25 July 2010, over a thousand people gathered in Moravský Krumlov to protest against the planned move of The Slav Epic from the town.
After a two-year dispute over Alfons Mucha's Slav Epic between Prague and the Moravian town of Moravský Krumlov, the renowned cycle of 20 monumental canvases was, in an move protested by conservationists and art historians, taken for display at the National Gallery's Veletržní Palace in 2012 and will be there for the next two years.
List of paintings
The work consists of 20 paintings, up to six metres tall and eight metres wide.
|Slavs in their Original Homeland||Between the Turanian Whip and the sword of the Goths||8,10 x 6,10 m|
|The Celebration of Svantovit||When Gods Are at War, Salvation is in the Arts||8,10 x 6,10 m|
|The Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy||Praise the Lord in Your Native Tongue||8,10 x 6,10 m|
|The Bulgarian Tsar Simeon||The Morning Star of Slavonic Literature||4,80 x 4,05 m|
|The Bohemian King Přemysl Otakar II||The Union of Slavic Dynasties||4,80 x 4,05 m|
|The Coronation of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan as East Roman Emperor||The Slavic Code of Law||4,05 x 4,80 m|
|Jan Milíč of Kroměříž||A Brothel Converted to a Convent||4,05 x 6,20 m|
|Master Jan Hus Preaching at the Bethlehem Chapel||Truth Prevails||8,10 x 6,10 m|
|The Meeting at Křížky||Sub Utraque||4,05 x 6,20 m|
|After the Battle of Grunwald||The Solidarity of the Northern Slavs||6,10 x 4,05 m|
|After the Battle of Vítkov Hill||God Represents Truth, Not Power||4,80 x 4,05 m|
|Petr Chelčický at Vodňany||Do Not Repay Evil with Evil||6,20 x 4,05 m|
|The Hussite King Jiří of Poděbrady||Treaties Are to Be Observed||4,80 x 4,05 m|
|Defense of Sziget against the Turks by Nicholas Zrinsky||The Shield of Christendom||8,10 x 6,10 m|
|The Printing of the Bible of Kralice in Ivančice||God Gave Us a Gift of Language||8,10 x 6,10 m|
|The Last days of Jan Amos Komenský in Naarden||A Flicker of Hope||6,20 x 4,05 m|
|Holy Mount Athos||Sheltering the Oldest Orthodox Literary Treasures||4,80 x 4,05 m|
|The Oath of Omladina Under the Slavic Linden Tree||The Slavic Revival||4,80 x 4,05 m|
|The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia||Work in Freedom is the Foundation of a State||8,10 x 6,10 m|
|Apotheosis of the Slavs||Slavs for Humanity||4,05 x 4,80 m|
- "The Slav Epic". Moravský Krumlov. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
- Cameron, Rob (10 August 2010). "Czech battle over art nouveau epic by Alphonse Mucha". BBC. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
- Hnátek, Václav (10 May 2012). "Muchově Epopeji to ve Veletržním paláci až nečekaně sluší". iDnes (in Czech). Mladá fronta DNES. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "Slovanská epopej na cestě do Prahy. Muchovi nepatří". Týden.cz. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- "Slovanská epopej se zatím stěhovat nebude. Krumlovští se brání". TV Nova (in Czech). Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- Sayer, Derek. The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History. Princeton University Press. p. 20.
- Carey, Nick (9 February 2000). "Alfons Mucha". Radio Prague. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- Konrád, Ondřej (26 July 2010). "Slovanská epopej v mlhách" (in Czech). Český rozhlas 6. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- "Do sporu o epopej se vložil Klaus. Chce, aby zůstala na Moravě". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). Czech Republic. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- Muchova Slovanská epopej do Prahy zatím nepřesídlí; Týden.cz (in Czech)
- Muchova Slovanská epopej stále nemá v Praze místo, další jednání se chystá na říjen; iDnes.cz (in Czech)
- Loss of Mucha art work likely to hit small Moravian town hard; Radio.cz
- "Proti stěhování epopeje protestovalo v Moravském Krumlově tisíc lidí". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). Czech Republic. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- "Mucha’s “Slav Epic” moved to Prague without approval".
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