'VIDI STELLAS UNDECIM...' THE STERNBERG ALLEGORIES IN THE PRINTS DESIGNED BY KAREL SKRÉTA
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An article dedicated to iconography of the noble Bohemian family Sternberg. The iconography of the Sternberg's is examined within the field of graphics, specifically engravings designed by Karel Skréta (1610-1674). The author assembled eleven such drawings and prints, all of which feature the eight-pointed star of the Sternberg coat of arms figures in their iconography. The earliest of these prints, a yet unpublished copper-engraving by Samuel Weishun, illustrates the theme of the Sternberg 'triumphal chariot' (1646). More well-known is the Prague university thesis print of the brothers Václav Vojtech and Jan Norbert of Sternberg, engraved in 1661 by B. Kilian. Jesuit historian Jan Tanner, the 'inventor' of the elaborate conception of this thesis print, was also the author of the panegyric-historical work 'Vestigia virtutis et nobilitatis Sternbergicae', published in 1661. Skréta designed at least two of the three engravings which decorate the Vestigia, executed by Daniel Wussim. At the end of the 1660's, Skréta designed two thesis prints dedicated to the Sternbergs; both of these for the Prague university student J. A. Binago. The theme of the allegorical frontispiece to Binago's bachelor theses is the celebration of spring, blooming under the Sternberg stars. The main subject of Binago's magisterial thesis print, engraved in 1670 by Ph. Kilian, is the 'Palladium of Bohemia' (a Virgin Mary relief venerated as a safeguard of the Bohemian Kingdom), which during the Thirty Years' War was stored in the Binago house on Prague's Old Town Square. After this important thesis print was discovered in the Albertina, it was possible to re-date and re-interpret two relevant Skréta designs, both deposited in the Prague National Gallery. Skréta designed his last copper-engraving on the Sternberg theme in 1673: the thesis print of the Czech knight Fr. K. Maggauer of Greiffenau, executed by Melchior Küsel. The sheet was dedicated to Count Adolf Vratislav of Sternberg, here glorified as a star of virtues. Maggauer's thesis print is also connected with a Skréta drawing deposited in the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett. Based upon the author's analysis of these graphic works, one can conclude that within the context of Baroque prints Karel Skréta can be proclaimed as the 'artist of the Sternberg myth'.
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