Národní galerie v Praze – Šternberský palác

Intending to stay well clear of museums today, I walked around for a couple of hours before giving in and going to the Národní galerie v Praze Šternberský palác (I thought it was one of the others, three of them being jammed together in various palaces) to look at more stuff from the 14th to 16th centuries.

Well, I was spoilt yesterday, well and truly. I looked at some of the Dutch Masters, Italian stuff, felt like I’d seen it all before, so loitered in the collection of (mostly) religious art of the 15th and 16th centuries. There was a greater Italian influence, and me being so committed to Central European mediæval stuff, I couldn’t quite get into it. By comparison also much of it wasn’t so fine, possibly being mass-produced. From a distance they would often look attractive, but close-up, the brushwork, forms, details, everything really was blurry and approximate.

A few charmers though: two saints giving each other the side-eye in Jacopo di Cione’s The Virgin and Child Enthroned with Angels and Saints; the blood running from Jesus’ feet in Piero di Giovanno’s The Lamentation falling onto the halos of the group below and causing them to glow; the woodcut block print style of the Madonna’s clothes in The Virgin Enthroned with Saints Peter and Paul, something I don’t recall seeing before; Lovro Dobričevič’s Pseudopolyptych of Twelve Saints, with possibly Saint Justina holding the palm frond of martyrdom. Three different works of the Adoration of the Magi by various Netherland artists.

The Epitaph of Jan Cleemenssoen with the Well of Life I was kindly reminded to stay more than 10cm away because I kept setting off alarms. It has Jesus, with what looks like a table on his back squatting in a fountain topped with flying buttresses. He is bleeding, nay gushing for all he’s worth from his spear wound. As fast as he fills the well, angels are drawing his blood off into golden chalices and giving it to the faithful to drink. Faithful or wealthy. Jesus is up to his ankles in blood; he looks like he hopes it’ll end soon.

The Šternberský palác museum is mostly not these kind of works. It’s plenty of 17th to 19th century art of the kind National Museums are known for: big expressive semi-realist works from the big names of Netherlands, Germany, Italy. I love seeing this in context, say in Antwerp (or in colossal-ity in the Gemäldegalerie), here it feels a little out of place, especially in contrast with the Národní galerie v Praze – Klášter sv. Anežky České I went to yesterday (The Wood Carvings and The Paintings in separate posts), which to me is far more of a properly Prague and Czech gallery.