The MDA in Prague holds in trust extensive collections of historical textiles, which are representative examples of this particular area of applied arts. There are 430 pieces of Coptic textiles and 1,350 fragments of silk manufactured mainly in Italian, Spanish, French and German manufactories in the 14th—19th centuries. The collection of liturgical vestments is quite unique, among them Baroque examples particularly stand out, being made from patterned materials decorated with various kinds of embroidery. The collection of 400 tapestries is nowadays the largest museum collection of its kind in the Czech Republic.
Coptic textiles are a unique document of manufacture and use of textiles in the Greek-Roman and Early Christian culture. The collection of these archaeological textiles was started shortly after the establishment of the Museum with the purchase of a collection of Cannon Franz Bock, a notable German collector. In the 1950s a collection from the former Kondakov Institute, founded in Prague by Russian émigrés, and a collection from the School of Applied Arts in Prague were both transferred to the Museum, thus considerably enlarging the Museum’s textiles collections.
historical woven textiles
This collection was built systematically from the end of the 19th century. Exhibits were bought at auctions from the collections of Franz Bock, Leopold Blumauer, Josef Kraut and Achille Cantoni, and they represent a relatively complete range of products made in important European silk centres. From the Middle Ages date examples of velvets and damask with typical pomegranate patterns, and the collection of fragments of Renaissance origin is relatively numerous. European Baroque production is represented by textiles used for liturgical vestments.
The collection of liturgical vestments in the MDA in Prague is quite unique, its inception going back to the 19th century, when objects were first acquired in auctions and as gifts. In this way vestments of Czech, German, Italian and Spanish origins were acquired. In the 1950s the collection was enlarged with the transfer of items from the monasteries which were then being closed down. Thus a unique collection of mainly Baroque liturgical vestments of predominately Czech origin was created.
The collection of tapestries was started later than the other textile collections. At the time of the founding of the Museum, there was no interest in tapestries among collectors, and even their owners did not treat them with adequate respect. Even though museums had opportunities to acquire tapestries for very good prices, they were not interested in them. The first tapestry appeared in the MDA in Prague already in 1897, but until 1945 the collection was very limited. Most items in the collection as it stands today were assembled between the 1950s and 1970s. The collection was not built as a result of systematic purpose buying, and it therefore contains, apart from several world unique pieces, a range of ordinary products of provincial workshops as well as replicas of important historical pieces.