Posted 9 months ago
Between 1911 and 1926 Mucha’s energy was taken up with the creation of the Slav Epic. For this project he rented a studio and an apartment in Zbiroh Castle in Western Bohemia to benefit from the spacious studio enabling him to work on enormous canvases. In the series, he depicted twenty key episodes from the Slavic past, ancient to modern, ten of which depict episodes from Czech history and ten on historical episodes from other Slavonic regions. The first canvas in the series, The Slavs in Their Original Homeland, was finished in 1912 and the entire series was completed in 1926 with the final canvas, The Apotheosis of the Slavs, which celebrates the triumphant victory of all the Slavs whose homelands in 1918 finally became their very own. THESE CORRESPOND TO PAINTINGS 9-12.
9. THE MEETING AT KRIZKY. [UNDER ATTACK]. (1916)
Following his death at the stake for his teachings, Jan Hus became a symbol of the Czech fight against the immoral conduct of the Catholic Church. Increasing numbers of Czech clergymen began to turn their back on papal rule and to deliver their sermons in the Czech language. They were declared heretics by the Papacy and the Council of Constance ordered that they be removed from their parishes. Charles University in Prague was also closed to ensure that their teaching ceased. Riots ensued and Hus’ followers began to gather in remote places outside the city walls in order to mount their rebellion.
Mucha depicts the most important of these gatherings which took place at K?ížky, south of Prague, on 30 September 1419. Koranda, a radical preacher, called on Hus’ followers to take up their arms to defend their faith. He stands praying on a makeshift pulpit facing the throngs of followers as they arrive at K?ížky. The dark sky above announces the imminent devastation of the Hussite Wars.
AS YOU CAN TELL, THIS PAINTING IS ON THE COVER OF THE FOLDER.
10. THE BATTLE OF GRUNEWALD. [THE SOLIDARITY OF THE NORTHERN PEOPLES]
The German Catholic military order of the Teutonic Knights settled in the Baltic area in the early 1400s in a bid to spread Christianity among the pagan tribes in the region, and to Poland and Lithuania beyond. To defend their lands from Catholic colonisation, the Slavs, the Poles and the Lithuanians signed a treaty. On 15 July 1410 the allies defeated the Tuetonic Knights in a fierce battle at Grunewald in Poland.
Mucha chose to depict the scene of the battle the following morning. The Polish king Wladyslaw stands in the middle of the body-strewn battlefield and covers his face in horror. His country may be free, but this freedom has come at some cost.
11. AFTER THE BATTLE OF IVTKOV, 1420. [GOD REPRESENTS TRUTH, NOT POWER]. 1916.
When King Wenceslas IV died in August 1419, he was succeeded by his brother Sigismund, King of Hungary. However, the Czech people, who held him responsible for the death of Jean Hus, refused to accept his claim to the throne. With the support of the Catholic Church and the German army, Sigismund launched a crusade against the Hussite movement and succeeded in occupying Prague Castle where he was crowned king.
In July 1420, the Hussites challenged Sigismund at Vítkov Hill on the outskirts of Prague. Led by their military leader Jan Žižka, the army of Hussite followers was joined by Czech soldiers from Prague who launched a surprise attack from the rear. Together, they succeeded in overpowering Sigismund and his men, forcing their retreat and Sigismund’s abdication.
Mucha’s theatrical composition portrays the solemn mass given by the priest that led the Czech soldiers from Prague. Holding a monstrance, he is surrounded by clergy lying in supplication on the ground. The rising sun penetrates the clouds and casts a celestial spotlight on the figure of Žižka, the victorious leader, who stands to the right of the composition with the weapons of the conquered army at his feet.
A mother nursing her child in the bottom left of the painting turns her back on the religious celebration, no doubt aware that her people will suffer further bloodshed as the Hussite Wars continue. Painted in 1916 as Europe was fighting in the trenches, this painting carries a personal commentary on the horrors of war.
12. PETR CHELCICKY. DO NOT REPAY EVIL WITH EVIL. 1918
Petr of Chel?ice was a pacifist thinker from Bohemia who was fervently opposed to war and military action in the name of religion. Mucha subscribed to much of Chel?ice’s thinking and chose to depict the more sinister side of the Hussite Wars in this canvas, concentrating on their effect on the lives of innocent victims.
The village of Vod?any fell victim to repeated Hussite attacks and the inhabitants were forced to flee their homes, taking the bodies of the injured and dead to the nearby town of Chel?ice. Consumed by grief and anger against the Hussites, they gather around the bodies of the victims and the few possessions that they have managed to bring with them. Petr Chel?icky, who stands at the center of the composition with a Bible under his right arm, offers comfort to the victims and implores them not to give in to vengeance.
INFORMATION ON THE PAINTINGS TAKEN FROM WWW.MUCHA.ORG