The giant Slav Epic series by Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha has finally secured a permanent home after 90 years in temporary depositories, including a hiding place from the Nazis under a pile of coal.
Mucha (1860-1939) said in his testament that he wanted the allegoric cycle of 20 paintings – which range in size from 20 to 50 sq m – depicting Slav myths exhibited in Prague on condition that the city would build a home for the work.
Last Thursday, City Hall voted to secure a home for the work that Mucha considered his masterpiece. “I see this as an overdue debt that we owe Alfons Mucha,” said Prague mayor Adriana Krnacova.
The new exhibition hall will be located inside Prague’s Lapidarium, a 19th-century Art Nouveau building that has been abandoned for decades. Prague believes its reconstruction will help revitalize the area, which has the potential to draw tourists and locals.
“This is the best solution for the Slav Epic,” said Jan Wolf, Prague councilor in charge of culture, adding that the building could also host other works by Mucha.
Mucha began the Slav Epic in 1910 and completed it in 1928, 10 years after former Czechoslovakia became independent following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the canvases were placed in a depository, then hidden under a pile of coal from the Nazis, who considered Mucha a freemason and Jewish sympathizer.
Mucha died in 1939 shortly after being interrogated by the Gestapo.
It was only in the 1960s that the collection was taken out of obscurity and put on display at the Moravsky Krumlov castle in the Czech countryside, near Mucha’s birthplace of Ivancice.
Over the years, more than a dozen places were suggested for the Slav Epic amid disputes between Prague and Mucha’s family.