National Gallery, Sternberg Palace (Národní Galerie - Sternbersky Palác)

National Gallery, Sternberg Palace (Národní Galerie - Sternbersky Palác) (29)

Whether you are an art lover or just feel simple curiosity, you should be aware that the Sternberg Palace houses one of the most important art collections in the world.

It all began at the end of the 18th century, when the leading Prague aristocrats realised that their city had no large painting museum, unlike other European capitals. In 1796, Franz Joseph Sternberg decided to found the Society of Patriot Friends of the Arts. Very quickly, its members, nearly all nobles or wealthy members of the bourgeoisie, began to donate valuable works of art to this society, which based its headquarters in the Sternberg Palace.

This palace in Baroque style, dating from the early 18th century, as well as all its contents, became the property of the Czech State in 1937 and since 1945 has been part of the National Museum. Inside there are masterpieces on show by some of the best European painters from between the 14th and 18th centuries.

A visit to the Sternberg Palace provides curious surprises, such as those to be found in the rooms dedicated to ancient art. There you will see the work entitled, “Portrait of a young woman”, which dates from the 2nd century and was discovered during some excavations in Egypt. The most abundant items are icons from the Orthodox Church, brought from other countries such as Greece, Italy or Russia.

The Flemish and Dutch art collection has works of great artistic value, among them some of their main representatives. So you will come across “A scholar seated at a table with books”, painted by Rembrandt en 1634, or “The Martyrdom of Saint Thomas”, by Rubens. Rubens himself sent some of his canvases to the Augustine monks of Prague, who later loaned them to this collection.

As well as a large collection of religious sculptures from Tuscany, the section on Italian art has some absolute marvels, such as the work “Saint Jerome” by Tintoretto, which is kept here.

Another representation of religious art is “The Christ” by El Greco. This Greek painter who lived in Spain achieved, with this work on show in Prague, a very moving and human image of Christ. German art is represented with works by Duhrer.

A unique spot that just must be visited is the Chinese Studio. It is a room that has been conserved with its original decoration. This studio was designed as a rest room, a place for total relaxation. Its abundant decoration mixes Baroque style with oriental motifs, very much the vogue among Prague’s upper classes in the 18th century. The black-lacquered shelves on its walls were formerly filled with valuable oriental porcelains.

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