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The Picture Gallery of Prague Castle

The collection of paintings at Prague Castle contains about four hundred paintings, drawings and graphic sheets of various ages and qualities. The historical development of the present collection was a long and complicated process. Unfortunately, the legendary collection of paintings of Rudolph II has not been preserved. A small part of it was taken away to Vienna during the Thirty Years's War and the greater part was stolen by the Swedes in 1648. The picture gallery was later renewed by Ferdinand III and particularly by his brother, Archduke Leopold Vilem, in the 17th century.

From the Twenties of the 18th century the collection of paintings was thinned out as the result of the removal of works to Vienna, later by sales to Saxony and the Josephian auction - and only in a few cases was the loss replaced with new additions. The paintings which were moved from the Picture Gallery to various rooms of the Castle to serve as decoration remained forgotten. It was not until the early Sixties of the present century that they were identified and evaluated in the course of research. The title of "Picture Gallery of Prague Castle" was restored as the name for the room reconstructed for the gallery installation of the most valuable and important pictures of the Castle collection.

This new Picture Gallery was open in 1965. Since 1991 the Picture Gallery was reconstructed again. The first exhibition in the renovated Picture Gallery is one part of the "Rudolph II and Prague" project. From May 1998 the permanent exhibition was installed here.

Among the paintings historically connected with the old Picture Gallery of Prague Castle include outstanding works by world-renowned artists Regarded as the most valuable are Tizian's Toilet of a Young Lady, Tintoretto's Flagellation of Christ or Rubens's The Assembly of the Olympic Gods. Of great value, however, are also the paintings by Hans von Aachen, Domenico Fetti, Bartolomeo Spranger, Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Bassano and others.

Thanks to President Masaryk and his daughter Alice a new picture collection oriented to Czech art of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries was built-up during the First Republic. Numerous purchases enriched the Castle with works by Petr Brandl, Jan Kupecky, Norbert Grund, Josef Manes, Adolf Kosarek, Jaroslav Cermak, Vaclav Brozik, Mikolas Ales, Vojtech Hynais, Antonin Chitussi, Jan Preisler, Antonin Slavicek and others.

A History of Prague Castle Gallery in Dates

1583 - Rudolf II declares Prague Castle his Imperial Seat.

1597 - The Spanish Hall (today the Rudolf Gallery) and the Langbau (also known as the Central or Corridor Wing) are completed for the Imperial painting collection.

1609 - The New Hall (today the Spanish Hall) is completed for the sculpture collection.

1607/11 - An inventory is compiled of the collections in the Imperial Kunstkammer.

1612 - After the death of Rudolf II (20 January) a large part of his collections is taken to Vienna, the Imperial seat of Emperor Matthias.

1615 - 115 pictures from the Castle Gallery are sent to Brussels to another brother of Rudolf II, Archduke Albrecht, as his hereditary share.

1620 - After the Battle of the White Mountain, Albrecht I, Archduke of Bavaria, removes part of the collections to Munich as war reparations.

1621 - At the order of Karl von Liechtenstein, who has been entrusted with the administration of Bohemia, a new inventory is compiled.

1630/31 - Prague Castle is occupied by Saxon troops; part of the collections are taken to Dresden as war booty.

1635 - During an audit of the collections a number of works of art not mentioned in the 1621 inventory are discovered.

1647 - At the order of Emperor Ferdinand III a new inventory of the collections is compiled.

1648 - Swedish troops occupy Prague Castle and take almost all the art works to Stockholm for Queen Christina of Sweden.

1650 - An inventory of the collection rooms at Prague Castle makes note of a number of empty frames and a few ruined pictures.

1650 - Archduke Leopold Wilhelm buys in Brussels for Emperor Ferdinand III part of the Buckingham Collection, which becomes the basis of the new Gallery of Prague Castle.

1656 - A new collection installed in the former gallery rooms at Prague Castle.

1660 - Pictures in the Gallery restored for first time.

1685 - Inventory (oldest extant) of the new collection made by copying a now missing list (probably dating from 1663), recording 547 pictures.

1688 - Swedish architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger visits Prague and makes a detailed description of the Castle collections.

1723 - First pictures from the Castle Gallery taken to Vienna.

1732 - Compensatory shipment of pictures from Vienna to Prague, containing part of the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm.

1737 - Inventory compiled of the collection of pictures, which has the most information on individual works (573 items).

1742 - First of two important series of paintings from Prague Castle secretly sold to the Elector of Saxony for the gallery in Dresden.

1747 - Second of the two important series secretly sold to the Elector of Saxony.

1763 - Separate Gallery at Prague Castle closed down; paintings taken to State Rooms of Imperial Castle and set into wood-panelled walls.

1781 - Inventory of 543 paintings, which are listed not by artist but by subject-matter.

1781 - Decree of Emperor Joseph II (21 September) ordering a list of artwork destined for public auction.

1782 - At auction (13 and 14 May) more than 300 pictures, sculpture and other items sold for 577 gold pieces and 35 kreuzers.

1797 - Emperor Francis I lends a large series of pictures from Prague Castle to the Gallery of the Patriotic Society of Art.

1838 - Peter Krafft, Director of the Gallery in Vienna, compiles a new inventory of the Castle collection; he determines the artists of the work and selects 210 pictures for restoration.

1840 - Completion of the restoration work on the paintings; the wood panelling is removed, and the paintings are hung on the walls of the State Rooms.

1875 - An audit ordered of all the Imperial collections.

1876 - 28 June, audit begins at Prague Castle; Professor Alfred Woltmann compiles an card index of 150 of the more important paintings, which becomes the basis for further shipments to Vienna.

1884 - A mere 264 pictures remain at Prague Castle.

1884/1906 - For the decoration of the State Rooms at the Castle pictures are sent from Vienna; most are of a decorative nature; the total number of paintings is now 324.

1918 - Prague Castle becomes the seat of the President of the new Czechoslovak Republic; the pictures of the Castle collection decorate his apartments.

1930 - 1950 The picture collections of Prague Castle are increased by purchases made using the Masaryk National Fund.

1951 - Works of Czech modern art are transferred to the National Gallery, Prague; less important pieces are taken by the National Cultural Committee.

1960 - Some important works of early art are transferred to the National Gallery.

1961 - The majority of pictures of the historical fund of the Castle collection are transferred to the depository at Opoèno Manor house.

1962/64 - Art-history and restoration research of the most important paintings is carried out under Professor Jaromír Neumann.

1965 - 15 January, Grand Opening of Prague Castle Gallery in the Imperial Stables, which have been remodelled by the architects František Cubr and Josef Hrubý; 77 pictures and sculptures are exhibited.

1990 - The Gallery is closed because of its poor state and lack of modern security.

1995 - The Prague Castle Administration begins to buy paintings again for the Castle collections.

1998 - Prague Castle Gallery re-opens after reconstruction based on plans by the architect Borek Sipek; 107 pictures and 3 sculptures are exhibited.