In 2012, four hundred years elapsed from the death of Emperor Rudolf II, one of the great patrons of the arts and sciences. His patronage drew together Europe’s most prominent figures from the spheres of culture and science, who were active at his court in Prague where he had moved his residence from Vienna. Painting, sculpture and other visual arts flourished under imperial patronage, as did printmaking that was gradually established as a new art medium in its own right. With the improvement of engraving and etching, printmaking was elevated to the status of a fine art during the second half of the 16th century, through the works of master engravers.
The prints presented at the exhibition rank with the very best created in Rudolf’s era. The graphic sheets in the exhibition collection are closely associated with Emperor Rudolf II and those in his immediate circle. A number of works were granted legal protection through an Imperial Privilege and are directly dedicated to the emperor; many of the masterpieces are the fruit of collaborative endeavours between engravers and Rudolf’s court artists, reflecting the Prague court’s refined artistic and intellectual milieu. These engravings were not all produced in one place; some were made in Prague, mostly in the workshop run by the noted Aegidius Sadeler, while others were executed by noted engravers in southern Germany and the Netherlands. The display includes portraits of the emperor, as well as images of his courtiers and other distinguished personalities he met. The largest print featured in the exhibition, named View of Prague – The Sadeler Prospect, shows the capital as it appeared during Rudolf’s rule. In the section devoted to landscape views, there is a variety of compositions rendered in intimate detail. Several images are devoted to famous mythological and allegorical subjects, and religious themes.
The exhibition contains a total of 57 prints (and three books) created by the most distinguished masters of printmaking, among them Hendrick Goltzius, Martino Rota, Jan Sadeler I, Aegidius Sadeler, Lucas Kilian and Jan Muller. Overall, these works are based on designs by celebrated artists of the Rudolfine circle, including Hans von Aachen, Bartholomeus Spranger, Roeland Savery and Adrian de Vries, to name a few. The bulk of the exhibits have been selected from the National Gallery in Prague’s collections, with a few complementary items on loan from the National Library of the Czech Republic and a private collection.
Curators: Alena Volrábová, Blanka Kubíková
Rudolf II. and Masters of Printmaking
Edited by Alena Volrábová and Blanka Kubíková
With participation of Dorothy Limouze, Lubomír Konečný, Dalibor Lešovský and Petra Zelenková
260 pp., Czech and English version, 84 coloured photographs
Published by Národní galerie v Praze 2012