Lost masterpiece rediscovered at Prague Castle

07-08-2009

Anything can get misplaced, even masterpieces of art, and caretakers at Prague Castle were well relieved this week when they rediscovered the 15th century wooden Statue of the Crucified Christ, 20 years after losing track of where it was stored. As it turns out, the statue they feared was lost forever was just a short way down the road from its proper home in the Basilica of Saint George. Earlier I spoke with Magda Machková, the curator of permanent collections at Prague Castle, who told me the story.

"It was discovered in a hidden room behind the southern staircase, which leads to the main choir of the All Saints Church. But it’s still kind of a mystery why it was there, because this place, the Church of All Saints, is very rarely used and is only very occasionally accessible, so before this period in the reconstruction, nobody had any chance to open this place."

So that explains also why it was so hard to find.

"Yes, exactly. And it was stored behind some stuff, behind some chairs, and some other things."

And so how is it that it was found just now?

"It was found during the reconstruction, because the Prague Castle complex, as a national heritage site, is under long-term reconstruction. So this church, the All Saints Church, is being reconstructed and during this work the room was opened and this masterpiece was found."

You call it a masterpiece; can you tell me more about the significance of it?

"Well let’s say it’s a national treasure because it’s an exceptional example of medieval sculpture from the 15th century, from the late phase of the style we call ‘krasný sloh’, really a very important period in art history for Central Europe, or for Europe as a whole. And imagine, it’s made of wood, it’s a woodcut. And not many wooden sculptures from the Middle Ages have remained."

Tell me, are you frustrated by the fact that all that time the statue was so close by, just on the other side of the square?

"Well yes, but my colleagues who discovered this item say that that’s their daily duty. And they were very surprised of course, but delighted."

And lastly, what is going to happen to the statue now?

"Well it’s definitely going to be restored, because it was really covered by a layer of dust. So it’s going to be restored and placed back in its authentic setting, which is the Basilica of Saint George, just opposite the All Saints’ Church where it was discovered. But before that it will be publicly displayed in a new exposition of the old Royal Palace in mid-September, so you’re very welcome to see it."

07-08-2009