Czech Open Information Project


The city's largest open space - Vaclav (Wenceslas) Square - is dominated by the monumental neo-Renaissance building of the National Museum, which arose in 1885 - 1890 from the plans of Josef Schulz on the site of the former Horse Gate, so-called from the horse market which used to be held in this area. The idea of founding a museum arose in 1818 among a group of patriotically-minded noblemen, who promptly carried out the project through the Czech National Museum Society, founded in 1820, which published its own periodical called "The Czech Museum". The museum is laid out as a rectangle enclosing two courtyards separated by a transverse wing which contains the main stair and entrance hall. The main facade has three risaliti topped by domes. The thematic decoration is bound up with the whole idea of the land and nation of Bohemia. The entrance ramp has statues representing the country and its principal rivers, the Vltava, Labe and Otava, by Antonin Wagner, and close by the entrance are statues by Mauder of History and Natural Science which symbolize the purpose of the museum, namely to house collections that are of natural or historical interest relating to this country. The relief on the tympanum, also by Wagner, represents Bohemia as patroness of science and art, and around the dome there are allegorical statues of Self-Sacrifice, Enthusiasm, Love of Truth and Love for the Past, all by Bohuslav Schnirch. The allegorical figures of individual sciences which adorn the niches in the lateral towers are also his work. The decoration programme for the central pantheon is the most remarkable feature of the interior, with wall paintings by Frantisek Zenisek, Vaclav Brozik and Vojtech Hynais recording the most famous periods of Czech history. Under the cupola there are bronzes of those who have achieved fame in the nation's history, culture and science by A. Popp, Josef Myslbek, Ladislav Saloun, Jan Stursa, Karel Dvorak and other sculptors. Among the columns of the entrance hall there are statues of Czech rulers by Ludwig Schwanthaler. The sixteen founders of the museum have their busts on the staircase, of which the wall surfaces carry pictures of Czech castles by Julius Marak and Bohuslav Dvorak.