Armorial Book from the Lobkowicz Library in the exhibition “Ulrich Creutz – The Myth: Visual Culture in Kadaň under Jan Hasištejn Lobkowicz
15 September – 19 November 2017
The Lobkowicz Library, with its ca 65.000 volumes, represents the largest and most precious castle library in the Czech Republic. The library history dates back to the 15th century. Since the 17th century, the collection has been kept at the Roudnice Castle in northern Bohemia, enriched by subsequent generations until WW2. First confiscated by Nazis (in 1942) and again by Communists (in 1948), the library was dispersed within various state institutions, and re-united in the 1990s after its restitution to the original owner, the Lobkowicz family.
In addition to other treasures, The Lobkowicz Library holds an astonishing collection of incunabula – early printed books, published before the year 1501. Most of these come from the private library of a distinguished Bohemian Renaissance poet Bohuslav Hasištejn (Hassenstein) of Lobkowicz (1461–1510). Though overshadowed by his younger brother, Bohuslav, Jan Hasištejn (1450 – 1517) had a great influence over the artistic output of Northern Bohemia. It was Jan who invited many important artists to his resident town Kadaň in Northern Bohemia and who transformed the town into an important spiritual centre and burial site for the Hasištejn line of the Lobkowicz Family.
The current exhibition in Severočeská galerie výtvarného umění (North-Bohemian Gallery of Art) in Litoměřice is focused on the most fascinating of the period artists active in Kadaň – stone-carver Ulrich Creutz. The most remarkable of his works is his visually striking tomb created in ca. 1516 for Jan Hasištejn (present in the exhibition via an impressive projection on a large format screen), which belongs to one of the most important sculptural works created in Bohemia in the era of the Jagellonian rule. Exhibited are also many other fascinating sculptures carved in wood, that have been formerly also associated with Creutz, but are now regarded to be the work of anonymous authors working in workshops in Creutz’s era and possibly run by him.
An important archival document displayed within the exhibition is the Armorial Book of Jan Hasištejn borrowed from The Lobkowicz Collections. The book, composed by Jan Hasištejn in his declining years (finished 1506), includes a family chronicle and genealogy, is illustrated with coats-of-arms of close and distant family relatives, and complemented with an educational treatise addressed to his son Jaroslav. On display is period copy of the document created in 1590s (the original was lost in 1957). The text of the treatise includes detailed guidance regarding relation to God, authorities, family members, friends, servants and enemies, as well as practical instructions relating to housekeeping. The work is also remarkable for its high stylistic quality. This intimate monument shows Jan not only as an outstanding patron of art but also as an exceptional personality and far-sighted custodian of family heritage.