Sektion des Gastlandes Tschechien: Barocke Deckenmalereien als virtuelle Welt der frühen Neuzeit
Tadeáš Kadlec, Prag

Evasion of Meaning: Treating Ceilings in 18th-Century Bohemia

Shortly before the middle of the 18th century, Heinrich Paul Franz II von Mansfeld, Prince of Fondi (1712–1718) commissioned two notable ceiling paintings at his residences in Bohemia. The prince employed two painters, one after the other, to execute similar projects, producing very different results. First, he commissioned Giovanni Pietro Scotti (1695–1761), a painter from Ticino, to decorate the ceiling in the great hall of his Prague palace (1736?). A few years later, he employed the German-born painter Johann Peter Molitor (1702–1757) to paint the great hall of his château in Dobříš (1746).
The results of the two painters’ work could not have been more different. The lavish Prague fresco, reminiscent of the works of Carlo Innocenzo Carlone (1686–1775), depicts a sumptuous celebration of Zeus, represented as a victorious warrior in the company of other Olympians. On the ceiling of the hall of the Dobříš château, on the other hand, we find only two groups of angels, hovering in the otherwise empty celestial space, with the sole task of carrying the suspended chandeliers.
Such a radical rejection of any kind of iconographic representation is striking. Is this an isolated case or a manifestation of a wider trend? What was the reason behind the complete clearing of the pictorial space? Is the void a result of the painter's inadequate skills, evidence of a general crisis of allegorical representation, or an example of a progressive solution to a given task?
The two commissions concerned are separated by the events of the War of the Austrian Succession, which seriously affected their patron, who was in the aftermath of the siege of Prague (1741–1742) was accused of French partisanship. Ultimately, given the tumultuous situation of the time, it is worth considering whether the absence of explicit meaning in the Dobříš ceiling painting might be interpreted – in addition to aesthetic reasons – as a manifestation of political caution.

Kurzbiografie Tadeáš Kadlec
2017 BA, Prague (“Salon à l’Italienne. The Inception of the Oval Hall Phenomenon Between the 17th Century France, Italy and Austria”)
since 2019Conservator, Department of Restoration, General Directorate of the National Heritage Institute, Prague
2021MA, Prague (“The Palace of the Count Michna of Vacínov. A Building and It’s Contexts”)
since 2021PhD student, Charles University / Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague (“Johann Peter Molitor (1702–1757). A German Painter in Bohemia and the Contexts of His Work in the Wider European Area”)
since 2021Co-investigator, research project “Baroque Ceiling Painting Between Theory and Praxis”
since 2022 Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Department of Early Modern Art, Prague
Forschungs- bzw. Arbeitsschwerpunkte The history of painting and architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries
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