I knew I would love this place on seeing the sour-faced guards. It was late on a rainy afternoon, and they so obviously wanted to be elsewhere.
I, however, wanted to be here. The Schwarzenberg Palace Museum is in the palace precinct in Prague, in a sgraffiti- decorated Renaissance palace on Hradčanské Square, beside Prague Palace. The gardens of the museum are a beautiful formal affair, an elegant introduction to the museum proper.
I entered to marble staircases and elegant corridors. Beautiful blue and white pieces of Renaissance ceramics adorned the stairs. Even the windows offered amazing views over the city.
Schwarzenberg Palace Museum is part of the National Museum, which is housed not in one place but in a few buildings across Prague. The museum was virtually deserted, with many of the rooms empty. Compared to the crowds on Charles Bridge or gathered to watch the chiming of the astronomical clock, it seems the place is overlooked by most visitors to Prague.
The museum specialises in European art from antiquity to the end of the Baroque period, with the Bohemian Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque art featuring heavily. I could have spent all day exploring the art from the Italian Renaissance. The Venetian school is heavily represented, while one room was filled with works by Reubens. Much of the art I recognised from reproductions in art books, such as Rembrandt’s The Scholar in his Study, or the famous twin paintings by Bronzino of Cosimo I de Medici and his betrothed, Eleonora di Toledo. Hers was the more splendid portrait, her resplendent clothes highlighted by a luxurious blue background. (The painting advertised both her wealth and her royal blood to the Florentines, for at at the time the lapis lazuli used to produce blue was prohibitively expensive.) Lorenzo’s portrait, by contrast, was a darker and simpler; by this marriage his social status rose from banker to Grand Duke of Tuscany.
This museum is a perfect oasis away from the crowds in Prague.
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