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It is our pleasure to inform our colleagues from the Partage Plus team and all other Art Nouveau admirers about the superb acquisition of a body of works by Alphonse Mucha that will greatly enhance the Art Nouveau holdings in the Museum of Decorative Arts. Within the context of Partage Plus, selected artworks from the collection will be available in digital form via the Europeana portal.
A Unique Collection of Works by Alphonse Mucha Donated to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
The Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague has received an extraordinary gift – a large group of illustrations and prints by Alphonse Mucha that has been generously donated to the museum by Vera Neumann, an art sponsor living in Switzerland. From the collection assembled together with her husband Lotar Neumann, Mucha’s original preparatory designs for his famous Le Pater book from 1899 have arrived in the Czech Republic. The donation contains the uniquely preserved, complete mockup of the book, complemented by a the exceptional first impresion of the book printed on Japan paper, as well as numerous preparatory sketches, studies and lithographic prints.
The ornamental and figural compositions for the Pater Noster, published in book form by Henri Piazza and Ferdinand Champenois in Paris, represent one of the peaks in Mucha’s oeuvre at the time. The artist explores in his illustrations a theme that is entirely different from his commercially successful theatrical and advertisements posters, rendering in them his theosophical concepts about Man’s spiritual path that liberates him from the bondage of the material world and leading him toward perfection and enlightenment. The compositions’ rich symbolism attests to Mucha’s profound interest in esoteric spiritual philosophy that resulted in his admission into a Masonic Lodge in 1898; that is, shortly before initiating work on the Le Pater.
The donated collection of more than seventy drawings, accompanied by a number of trial impressions, documents in great detail the genesis of this bibliophilic treasure of rare book publishing., providing a glimpse into Mucha’s creative process from the initial compositional layout to the final execution that served as a model for the printing of colour lithographs and heliogravures. The definitive version of the work is the exceptional first impresion of Le Pater with the exclusive number 1 that Mucha donated to his friend, the Czech-born Charles Freund-Deschamp, a paints manufacturer. The significance of the first printed impression with the mockup bound into the book is indicated by the fact that afterwards it was in the possession of Raymond Poincaré, President of the Third French Republic. Much later, in 1972, the collection as a whole was publicly presented at an auction in France, where it was sold as three separate lots most likely to different bidders. That same year, the Neumanns succeeded in acquiring and completing the dispersed parts. In collaboration with the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, the Foundation Neumann presented the reassembled collection of Mucha’s illustrations for the Le Pater book in an independent exhibition mounted at Prague’s Municipal House in 2002. Now, thanks to the Neumann family, these artworks have returned permanently to the artist’s native country.