On the left bank of the Vltava River in Smichov, entirely off the tourist track, you‘ll find the Portheimka summer palace just adjacent to the Church of St. Vaclav.
The side of the building facing busy Štefanikova Street appears rather plain but walk just a few feet, and from the other side, the lovely Baroque facade, a small courtyard with a fountain, and a park with mature chestnut trees come into view.
The summer palace was built here in the mid-18th century by Prague native and one of the most renowned architects of his time Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, whose name is associated with the Church of St. Nicholas on Old Town Square and the completion of the dome of the Church of St. Nicholas in the Lesser Town.
The summer residence faces the garden. The richly decorated French doors open out onto the balcony, which is adorned on each side with busts depicting allegories of Day and Night.
Ideologically, they refer to the antique gods Apollo and Venus and represent the Sun and Moon as well as the masculine and feminine principles.
The placement of the busts on the balcony is not random – traditionally, the masculine aspect is attributed to the right side, representing rationality, thinking, and activity, while the left side – the feminine aspect – represents feelings and creativity.
Of interest is a small grotto (an artificial cave) built into one of the summer palace’s windows facing the park, fitted with artificial stalactites and, originally, with a fountain. It was intended for songbirds to nest in.
The building’s primary public space is the oval hall with frescoes depicting Bacchanalian festivities by renowned Baroque painter Vaclav Vavřinec (Wenzel Lorenz) Reiner, whose work adorns many Prague churches. Young Antonin Dvořak even played concerts here.
Today, the Portheimka summer palace is home to a museum of glass, administered by the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation.
- Štefanikova 12, Prague 5 – Smichov