Materials for the History of Arts of the 17th and 18th Centuries
in the Czech lands
„Nach dem westphälischen Friedensschluße erholte sich sehr bald wieder unser Vaterland, und die Künste stegen an, sich , während eines langen Friedens, ihrem ehemaligen Glanze etwas zu nähern.“Franz Lothar Ehemant, Etwas zur Kunstgeschichte Böhmens, in: Joseph Dobrowsky, Böhmische Litteratur auf das Jahr 1779 I/3, Prag 1779, s. 227.
The art of the 17th and 18th centuries represents a spectacular, fascinating, sometimes contradictory, but generally compelling part of the world’s cultural heritage. Many domestic and foreign artists worked in the Czech lands in the service of privileged commissioners during this period, leaving behind countless works of art. Despite all research efforts, we still know little about some of these artists and their work. The more important ones, on the other hand, have received a great deal of scholarly attention, and the knowledge of their lives and works is so extensive that it sometimes becomes almost labyrinthine.
The QUIRIN-LEXIKON.art project is named after one of the founders of art history in the Czech lands, the painter and historiographer Johann Jakob Quirin Jahn (1739–1802). It is a website focusing on the subject of art of the 17th and 18th centuries with time overlaps to the territory of the historical Czech lands. The project is gradually compiling a glossary and collecting and publishing basic biographical data on artists, related archival materials and bibliographical references, and basic information on selected artistic realisations. In addition, entries on contemporary artistic practice and techniques are being prepared.
The data in the lexicon can be and is and will be continuously corrected and updated in the light of new findings and knowledge. It is a kind of open working “card catalogue”, in which – unlike in a printed dictionary – its authors can at any time enter newly discovered data or, on the contrary, correct errors found in the entries. The main aim of the QUIRIN-LEXIKON.art project is to offer easily accessible overviews and background information for further research and for a deeper interpretation of early modern artworks.
The QUIRIN-LEXIKON.art low-cost web project is based on an alphabetically sorted blog in the WordPress program (open source software), using the Kadence WP template. We chose this solution in an effort to minimize the cost of software development and at the same time offer a functional tool for flexible and convenient editing of texts and image attachments, effective editorial collaboration and the creation of a reader-friendly environment. We also respond to the general trend in the “digital humanities” of users’ preference for web search engines over complex database systems. The open website can be accessed via standard web browsers both on a personal computer and on a mobile device, i.e. in your office, in a library, at home or during field research, at https://quirin-lexikon.art/.
The project is based on older manuscript and printed lexicographical works. The names of artists active in the Czech lands are already abundantly represented in the volume Allgemeines Künstler-Lexicon, published in Zurich in 1763 by the Swiss painter and art historiographer Johann Rudolf Füßli (1709–1793). The relatively good information on artists from Bohemia suggests that the publisher may have relied on information sent directly from the Bohemian environment. Later, the dictionary was repeatedly expanded in editions prepared by one of Johann Rudolf’s sons, Hans Heinrich Füßli (1745–1832).
The founder of modern Czech art historiography was the aforementioned Prague artist Jan Jakub Quirin Jahn (1739–1802), whose extensive written legacy also contains a wealth of manuscript material for dictionaries of artists in Bohemia (Archives of the National Gallery in Prague). During Jahn’s lifetime, among other texts, his medallions of Bohemian and Moravian artists, included in Pelzel’s Abbildungen böhmischer und mährischer Gelehrten und Künstlern from 1773–1782, and his reports on old Bohemian and Moravian artists, published in Dresden on the pages of the Neue Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften und der freyen Künste in 1776–1777, were published in print. Franz Lothar Ehemant (1748–1782), professor of general and literary history and aesthetics at the University of Prague, compiled a list of important Bohemian artists of the 17th and 18th centuries and contributed it to the collection Böhmische Litteratur auf das Jahr 1779, edited by the philologist Josef Dobrovský (1753–1829). The Moravian historian and archivist Johann Peter Cerroni (1753–1826), in addition to the manuscript of a grandiose lexicon of literati in the Czech lands and other writings, left behind a very valuable and extensive material for artistic topography and a dictionary of artists in Moravia (Moravian Land Archive in Brno).
The first major printed dictionary of artists in Bohemia is the Künstler-Lexikon published in 1815 by Gottfried Johann Dlabacž (1758–1820), a librarian of the Premonstratensian monastery at Strahov in Prague. Since the middle of the 19th century, more art historians collected archival documents about the lives of artists working in the Czech lands during the 17th and 18th centuries and published their “utilities”, “materialia” or “contributions” as a necessary basis for a future modern dictionary. Among others, we can mention Antonín Rybička (1812–1899), Antonín Podlaha (1865–1932) and Karel Vladimír Herain (1890–1953). The compilation of the lexicon was later taken up by the Prague lawyer and amateur art expert Prokop Toman (1872–1955), who first published the Nový slovník československých výtvarných umělců (New Dictionary of Czechoslovak Visual Artists) in 1936 and then in an expanded form in 1947 and 1950. Supplements, which Toman’s son also contributed to, were published in 1955. More recently, we have the Nová encyklopedie českého výtvarného umění (New Encyclopaedia of Czech Visual Arts), written by a collective of authors under the editorial direction of Anděla Horová and published with extensive supplements in 1996 and 2006. It also takes into account foreign dictionary works, dominated by the monumental projects Thieme-Becker. Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler with 37 volumes published between 1907–1950, and the staple Saur. Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon published since 1983. The two volumes of the second part of the academic Dějiny českého výtvarného umění (History of Czech Visual Arts), published in 1989, remain an important source of knowledge of 17th- and 18th-century art with references to many other sources.
In addition to these sources, the web project is also based on different older and more recent comprehensive overviews of Baroque art, topographical works, domestic and foreign art monographs, books and magazine articles. In doing so, it seeks to respond to the developing research and openness of knowledge in the field of early modern art. Therefore, the data in the lexicon are and will continue to be continuously corrected and updated in the light of new findings and knowledge. The main aim of the project is to offer a basis for further research and for a deeper interpretation of artworks and monuments of the early modern period. Of course, we cannot imagine working on any project dealing with Baroque painting and sculpture in Bohemia and Moravia today without reading the invaluable works of Oldřich J. Blažíček, Ivo Krsek, Jaromír Neumann, Pavel Preiss or Miloš Stehlík.
The QUIRIN-LEXIKON.art project has been developed since 2022 in cooperation with art historians and archivists from the Centre of Baroque Ceiling Painting at the Institute of Art History | Czech Academy of Sciences, Archive of the National Gallery in Prague, Seminar of Art History of the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University in Brno, Institute for Art History of the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, Institute of the History of Christian Art of the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University, Atelier of Wall Painting and Sgraffito Restoration of the Faculty of Restoration of the University of Pardubice and other institutions. Students of art history and restoration are involved in the implementation of the project.
The pilot part of the project is dedicated to Baroque wall painting. This pilot segment was made possible thanks to the support of the Czech Science Agency, within the project Baroque Ceiling Painting between Theory and Praxis, reg. No. 21-13208S (Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences | Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University | Faculty of Restoration, University of Pardubice).
The project also publishes the results of archival research conducted with the support of the Czech Science Agency as part of the project “Czech Vasari” Jan Jakub Quirin Jahn (1739–1802) and his conception of the history of visual arts in Bohemia, reg. no. 23-05042S (National Gallery in Prague | Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences).
Much of the documentation and knowledge about Baroque ceiling painting has been acquired through long-standing international cooperation within The Research Group for Baroque Ceiling Painting in Central Europe (BCPCE).
All rights are reserved to the Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences, the National Gallery in Prague, the named partner institutions, as well as to the authors of the texts and photographs.