Posted 4 months ago
I HAVE BEEN COLLECTING MUCHA OUT-OF-THE-USUAL POSTCARDS FOR A WHILE, AND DECIDED TO CONCENTRATE ON THOSE OF HIS WORKS THAT MOST PROBABLY WILL NEVER BE SEEN OUTSIDE THE CZECH REPUBLIC.
I AM REFERRING TO WORKS THAT ARE EITHER MURALS OR TOO LARGE FOR TRANSPORTATION. AMONG THEM, HIS MAGNUS OPUS, A SERIES OF 20 MONUMENTAL PAINTINGS (8X10 METERS!) THAT ARE CURRENTLY THE SUBJECT OF A HEATED DEBATE AS TO WHERE THEY WILL END UP: IN PRAGUE, OR IN THE CASTLE, FOUR AND HALF HOURS AWAY FROM THE CAPITAL , WHERE THEY WERE STORED, FOUND AND HAVE BEEN ON DISPLAY SINCE 1967.
THE SET COMES WITH A FOLDER THAT SHOWS THREE OF THE PAINTINGS, AND 17 SEPARATE POSTCARDS. EACH HAS A TITLE AND A SUBTITLE [IN BRACKETS], PLUS AN EXPLANATORY LEAFLET. THE INFORMATION I HAVE PROVIDED ON EACH COMES FROM WWW.MUCHA.ORG
1. THE SLAVS IN THEIR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN. [BETWEEN THE TURINGIAN WHIP AND THE SWORD OF THE TURKS]. 1912.
]Mucha chose to start his history of the Slavic people in the 4th to 6th centuries. At this time, the Slavic tribes were agricultural folk who dwelled in the marshes between the Vistula River, the Dnepr River, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. With no political structure to support them, their villages were under constant attack by Germanic tribes from the West who would burn their houses and steal their livestock.
The couple hiding in the bushes in the foreground as their village burns on the horizon are the survivors of one of these attacks. The fear and vulnerability expressed in their faces beseeches the help of the viewer. A pagan priest flanked by two youths symbolizing war and peace floats in the top right of the composition. These figures foretell the peace and freedom that will come to the Slav people when independence is gained through war.
2. FESTIVAL OF SVANTOVIT. [WHEN THE GODS ARE AT WAR, SALVATION LIES IN ART], 1912
This image depicts the celebration of the harvest festival of honoring the pagan god Svantovit, taking place on the Baltic island of Rujana's capital city of Arkona. The treasure-filled temple which lay at the heart of the celebration was a place of pilgrimage for Slavs during the eighth to tenth centuries. Arkona was later conquered by Danish warriors and, by Mucha's time, had acquired mythic status as a symbol of former Slavic glory.
The temple can be seen in the left background. Brightest among the pilgrims in the foreground is a mother and child, with sun setting on the scene behind her. In the top left is the Viking god Thor with a pack of dogs, foretelling the future destruction of Arkona. At the very top, center, a Slavic warrior is dying in the in front the figure of Svantovit who sprouts the leaves of the linden tree. The vertical shaft of blue/white is the warrior's sword which is being taken by the god to protect the future of the Slavs.
The importance of artistic endeavor as a response to war is emphasized by the three musicians in the center right of the composition and the foreground figure of a wood carver being consoled and inspired by his muse.
3. THE INTRODUCTION OF SLAVIC LITURGY [LET US PRAISE GOD IN OUR OWN LANGUAGE] 1912
German Christian missionaries led a crusade throughout the Moravian Empire in the second half of the 8th century. In an attempt to prevent the demise of the Slav language, Prince Rostislav engaged two learned monks from Salonika, Cyril and Methodius, to translate the Bible into Old Church Slavonic. This move was opposed by German bishops and Methodius had to travel to Rome to defend the translation. He succeeded in securing Rome’s permission to continue his work and was appointed archbishop of Great Moravia for his efforts.
Methodius and Cyril’s translation was instrumental in the survival of the Slavic tongue in subsequent centuries, and they became the Slav people’s most popular saints.
Mucha’s third composition in the cycle depicts the triumphal return of Methodius to Great Moravia from Rome. Methodius is the bearded figure to the left of the center supported by two of his followers. Prince Rostislav’s successor, Prince Svatopluk, sits on a throne to the far right of the composition and listens as a priest reads a letter from the pope. Represented in the top right of the painting are the stylized figures of rulers who supported the spread of Christianity in the Slavic language: Boris of Bulgaria and Igor of Russia and their wives. In the foreground, a figure of a youth with a clenched fist and a circle in his right hand symbolizes the strength and unity of the Slav people.
4. TSAR SIMEON OF BULGARY [THE SHINING STAR OF SLAVIC LITERATURE]
Simeon turned the new Bulgarian capital Preslav into a magnificent religious and cultural center, intended more as a display of his realm's heyday and as a royal residence than as a military fortress. With its more than twenty cross-domed churches and numerous monasteries, its impressive royal palace and the Golden (or Round) Church, Preslav was a true imperial capital. The development of Bulgarian art in the period is demonstrated by a ceramic icon of Theodore of Amasea and the Preslav-style illustrated ceramics
After the death of Methodius, the Archbishop of Moravia, Prince Svatopluk withdrew his support for the Slavonic translation of the New Testament and evicted its followers from Moravia. The Bulgarian Tsar Simeon, a learned leader with a passion for Byzantine literature, gave them refuge and encouraged them to continue their work.
Mucha immortalizes the expelled followers of the Slavonic liturgy in the Byzantine frescoes that adorn the walls of the basilica. He places Tsar Simeon at the center of the composition, communicating with his scholars and scribes in the foreground while the official members of the church and court are relegated to the background.
Mucha’s use of rich colours and warm tones draws the viewer’s eye through the picture and up to the figure if Simeon and capture the splendour and nobility of his intellectual pursuits.