National Gallery Prague – Schwarzenberg Palace (Schwarzenberský palác)

The Schwarzenberg Palace is an inherent part of the Prague Castle panorama. It is a significant Early Renaissance building whose facade is elaborately decorated with sgraffito. The permanent exhibition presents a selection of masterpieces from the Old Art Collection.

Object description

Building history

Schwarzenberg Palace (also the Lobkowicz Palace)

To the west from the Prague Castle ramp, there is one of the best preserved palaces, which is also the most impressive Renaissance building in Prague, together with the Royal Summer House. The palace represents the so called Bohemian Renaissance, a connection of Italian models and Bohemian tradition. After 1500, there were three larger houses in this place, two of them to be acquired by Jan Junior of Lobkowicz, future supreme Prague burgrave, after the great fire in 1541. He had the palace built from 1545 on by Agostino Galli, called Italian. The construction was completed, including the sgraffitoes, in 1567. The third house was acquired by Lobkowicz later on, and therefore also the construction of the Western side wing was completed later. The groundplan of the palace resembles the letter T, and there is a little lower side building on the right side, which delimits the yard of honour at the Hradčanské Square. It is divided from the square by a wall with a grilled gate. The facades of the buildings and the walls are richly decorated with sgraffitoes of a North-Italian and Venetian type, dating back to 1567. The building is characteristic for its high gables, also covered by sgraffitoes, and by a marked lunette cornice between the roof and the wall. The sgraffito ornaments and the cuboidal blocks are black and white. The character of the building rather resembles a castle than a city palace. When the next owner, Jiří of Lobkowicz, fell into disfavour with Rudolf II, he was imprisoned and his property confiscated, and the object became a property of Petr Vok of Rožmberk. After him, it was owned by the family of Švamberk, and the Eggenberk. By marriage, it was passed to the Schvarzenberg family property, namely to Adam František, count of Schvarzenberg. In the years 1723 – 24, the dwelling premises for the Schwarzenberg family were repaired and built anew by Antonín Hafenecker according to a project of Antonio Erhard Martinelli. In 1870, the main Western gable collapsed into the square, and then the facades and gables were repaired by Jan Schulz in the years 1871 – 92. When completing the sgraffitoes, designs of Jan Koula, Josef Schulz and the building counsel Sedláček were used instead of the original patterns. At that time, also the enclosure wall of the yard of honour was newly decorated by attics. The sgraffitoes were restored in 1929, and again in 1955 – 57, then according to the original found patterns. The renewed sgraffitoes had a total extent of approximately 7,000 m2, and the group of restorers was lead by J. Kabeš and A. Tintěra. There is a little attraction in the form of the Renaissance sundial placed on one of the chimneys and visible from the house At the Two Suns in Nerudova Street. Alongside the sundial, there is a sgraffito symbol of a day – a rooster, and a symbol of a night – an owl. The inscription below the sundial reads Hora ruit (the hour is rushing). There are preserved sheet ceilings in the interior of four halls on the second floor, being a precious document of Renaissance figurative painting from around 1580. The paintings have the following themes: Phaeton, Jupiter and Junona, Judgement of Paris, Rape of the Sabine women, Capturing of Troy, Aeneas carrying Anchis from burning Troy, Cronos kidnapping Proserpine from the underworld.

As the imperial court had its seat in Vienna, the Prague palaces ceased to be used for accommodation; their owners moved to follow the court. In the beginning of the 20th century, only a military stable remained in the Schwarzenberg Palace; from 1908, the Schwarzenbergs leased the palace free of charge to the National Technical Museum, which placed its collections on display here. The palace was badly damaged during the May uprising; it was used as an armed central office of the generality. It had to be repaired and after an adaptation, the Museum of Military History opened its first exposition here on the 1st June 1947. The Museum of Military History, founded in 1919, was originally placed in the Černín Palace, and later also in Invalidovna. During occupation, it was annexed by the Nazis and the collections were taken to Germany. Luckily, most exhibits were found and returned to the museum after the war.

In the year 2000, the exposition of the Museum of Military History was closed due to reconstruction, which was completed in 2007. Now the palace is owned by the National Gallery, which opened a new exposition here in March 2008, named Bohemian Baroque.

Opening hours

january - december

Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun: 10:00 - 18:00

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Hradčanské náměstí 2
11000 Praha 1