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Muzeum hlavního města Prahy

Seven hours wandering Prague—well, six if I exclude the hour spent eating a pizza. Two of those were in the Muzeum hlavního města Prahy (I’m translating that as The City of Prague Museum), me visiting that as an accompaniment to Bologna’s Museo della Storia di Bologna almost a year ago.

It takes me about three hours to go through all my pictures and make decisions, edit them (mostly rotating, dealing with skew and warp distortions, lens barrelling, bad light, not much in the way of actual image editing), write the captions, upload them, get to here where I write something. So, a quick writing something.

The museum is not so large, and fairly standard for its type: a prehistoric/archaeological section, a mediæval section starting around 800CE, a renaissance section, a baroque, and finishing with a … imperial? anyway, the period of time finishing mid-19th century when most of europe was mad on colonising everywhere else. There’s no audio guide, though it doesn’t detract not having one. The rooms are small-ish, and often there’s a lot of text with each display, so if one were to do all the reading, they could emerge quite enlightened. I came out dumb as a stump.

As usual I went looking for women and non-typical Europeans, I mean the ones from Africa, Middle East, India, all the rest of the world who’d been busy living in Europe for quite some time already. I found a couple the instant I walked through the door, in a nativity scene. Strangely, I’m by now used to seeing a small population of ethnic diversity in any museum but noticed an absence of it here, despite seeing a fairly good representation throughout Prague in old sculptures.

I’m just going to write about each image in turn (maybe skip a couple if I’m so inclined, so those were the first two.)

The original Calendar face of the Prague Astronomical Clock. It’s worth a close look for all the detail, the zodiac, months of the year, seasons, plus a vast amount of information around the edge.

Earthware, bone combs, pots, jugs, pins, belt buckles, from the Bronze Age and generally neolithic, pre-history. It occurred to me that much of what I see of this kind of stuff has probably been made and used by women, weaving, spinning, thread and cloth-making instruments, cooking and kitchen utensils, sure there’s the odd arrowhead, axe, knife, but even those were used by women in places. Besides the obvious cliché of Caveman hunting Mammoth, or the image of the Iron Age blacksmith, museums are rather populated by the history of women, just not acknowledged or represented as such.

Anyway, on to less speculative stuff.

I particularly liked the Bleeding Jesus, as it’s a good representation of the type of blood cult Christianity Carolyn Walker Bynum talks about. Almost hilarious amounts of blood and gougings, and droplets arranged in triplets in a line. What this image is missing is his legs which look like he’s having a period of biblical proportions. I really don’t know where all that blood is coming from, but it’s certainly his nether regions.

Then there was this beautiful but battered statue of an armoured person, headless and broken, but still …

A couple more, and then this piece of the Apotheosis of St Ignatius of Loyola. It fits a particular style around the early 1700s I’ve seen before, the whatever (in this case St Ingatius) being held aloft by ‘Peoples from the Four Corners of the World’. I’m really not sure what they thought they were doing at the time, but from this perspective, they manage to look both horribly racist and tragically premonitory.

Then there were these two Putti, that I thought at first were black, but later I thought it was maybe soot or something, as the dark pigment goes across the plinth and Volute also.

And then I fell in love. Jan Jiří Bendl’s, Guardian Angel from 1650-ish is huge, probably 2 and an half metres and I spent far too long staring into her divine face. I would steal the shit out of this if I could get away with it. Often religious art looks like no one in particular, but this is somehow both an idealised form (and quite Italian) as well as distinctly a person. I was really taken by the changes as I moved around her.

The cupboard door I liked especially for the Chinese-influenced lacquer-work. It’s very Chinese until you look closer and then it’s very I have no idea.

A pen and ink map of Prague from 1769. I can even see where I live!

A tiny Baroque glass garden party with chamber orchestra and women with mad hats.

The massive model of Prague from 1834. It’s huge and strangely transfixing. Again something I’ve seen in a few museums, in Berlin, Bologna, all from around the same time.

Then more pen and ink drawings. There was an exhibition of Masters from Rudolph II’s Era, but I found a lot of them bland and mediocre. The drawings though. The Finding of the True Cross by Empress Helena, I liked just for the line-work, I could was imagining Legend of Korra done like this.

Paulus van Vianen’s (?) Landscape near Salzburg I noticed because it’s very un-European, and so in the style of Chinese landscape art that the artist must have been influenced.

And then there’s Saint Francis. Well of course.

So, one Prague museum down. I’m not sure how many I’ll see as my tendency to overwork after (it’s been four hours on this) is a little excessive. Walking and wandering, yes!