Visiting Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion? You must join the virtual exhibition queue when you arrive. If capacity has been reached for the day, the queue will close early.

Learn more
Prague, The Crown of Bohemia, 1347-1437

Prague, The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437

Boehm, Barbara Drake, and Jiri Fajt, eds., with contributions by Robert Suckdale, Paul Crossle, Zoë Opacic, Vivian B. Mann, Gerhard Schmidt, Jan Royt, and Erno Marosi
384 pages
420 illustrations
George Wittenborn Award, Winner (2005)
View More Publication Info

Prague, the Gothic jewel of the kingdom of Bohemia and capital of the modern Czech Republic, has been lauded by poets as "the dream of delirious architects" whose "magic needs no wand." Today, after decades of political isolation, the city again draws throngs of tourists eager to see its imposing castle, its soaring cathedral and mighty bridge. Yet many do not realize how much of Prague's fairy tale skyline and how many of its treasures were created after Charles IV established his new European capital on the banks of the Vltava in the fourteenth century.

Son of the king of Bohemia and grandson of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles was an erudite and devout prince, educated in Paris and linked by bonds of kinship to the courts of Europe. After he assumed his father's throne in 1347, he transformed Prague into a royal capital meant to rival Paris and Rome. He rebuilt Prague Castle with golden towers to shine both east and west, founded the first university in central Europe, and initiated a massive building campaign to glorify Saint Vitus's Cathedral. When Charles was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1355, court and church commissions redoubled throughout his vast empire.

After Charles's death in 1378, his son Wenceslas IV found himself increasingly embroiled in political and religious turmoil. Wenceslas's weaknesses as a ruler notwithstanding, art in Bohemia reached its apogee during his reign. The disparate artistic traditions Charles had brought to Prague from across Europe had coalesced into a distinctive aesthetic known as "The Beautiful Style," recognizably "made in Prague." Wenceslas's half brother Sigismund, king of Hungary and later Holy Roman Emperor, succeeded to the throne of Bohemia in 1419. Because of the unrest that continued there, he maintained his court in Buda. Like his father and brother before him, Sigismund lavishly decorated his residences and commissioned sumptuous works of art. In 1436–37, the final year of his life, he at last gained control of Prague.

Prague, The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437, the companion to a landmark exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, celebrates the remarkable flowering of art that took place in Prague as the city emerged as a European cultural capital. In essays and entries on works of art drawn from Czech, other European, and American collections, an esteemed group of scholars elucidate this compelling chapter in European history. Among the nearly 200 objects are paintings, including panels by Master Theodoric from the Holy Cross Chapel at Karlstejn Castle; goldsmiths' work from Saint Vitus's Cathedral that has not been exhibited for decades; sculpture; drawings, including an artist's model book with its original carrying case; stained glass; embroideries from ecclesiastical vestments; and illuminated manuscripts from the personal collection of Wenceslas IV. These precious objects bear witness to the achievements of the hundreds of artists trained and active in Prague and its rulers' dominions during this spectacular century.

The Prayer Book of Bonne of Luxembourg, Duchess of Normandy, Jean Le Noir , and Workshop French, Tempera, grisaille, ink, and gold on vellum, French
Jean Le Noir
before 1349
View of the City of Prague, Johannes Wechter  German, Etching
Multiple artists/makers
Enthroned Virgin and Child, Limewood with paint, Bohemian or Moravian
Bohemian or Moravian
ca. 1350
Head of a Bearded Man, Anonymous, Bohemian, 14th century  Bohemian, Pen and gray-brown ink, brush and gray-black and brown wash, traces of white gouache highlights
Anonymous, Bohemian, 14th century
Ewer, Jasper body, silver-gilt mounts, Bohemian
ca. 1350–80 (ewer); ca. 1400 (mounts)
Chess Piece in the Form of a King, Walrus ivory, German
Double Cup, Silver, gilded silver, and enamel, German or Bohemian
German or Bohemian
Saddle, Staghorn, limewood, rawhide, birchbark, metal, paint, Central European
Central European
ca. 1400–1420
Orphrey Panels from a Chasuble, Silk and metal thread, Bohemian
early 15th century
Pietà (Vesperbild), Limestone with polychrome highlight, Bohemian
ca. 1400
Ceremonial Arrowhead, Steel, copper alloy, Bohemian, probably Prague
Bohemian, probably Prague
ca. 1437–39
Ceremonial Arrowhead, Steel, copper alloy, Bohemian, probably Prague
Bohemian, probably Prague
Ceremonial Arrowhead, Steel, copper alloy, Bohemian, probably Prague
Bohemian, probably Prague
Infantry Shield (Pavise), Wood, leather, gesso, silver foil, polychromy, Bohemian, possibly Chomutov (now Czech Republic)
Bohemian, possibly Chomutov (now Czech Republic)
ca. 1450

A slider containing 5 items.
Press the down key to skip to the last item.

View Citations

Boehm, Barbara Drake, Jiří Fajt, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), and Obrazárna pražského hradu, eds. 2005. Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1347-1437. New York : New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Yale University Press.