Čeština Pусский


To fit the simple cylindrical shape of the porcelain cup, the Madonna paintings had to be cut down from their rectangular shape into ovals. The sides of the cup had to be perceived as a strip – a ‘base’ with decorations typical of the backgrounds in the figural compositions of Gothic panel paintings. These were often poly-chromed using gold leaf. The decoration was embossed, creating a fine relief with overpainting.
In this way, a different base for each cup was created, corresponding to the specific colours of each individual Madonna. The cylinder of the cup from the baseline to the top provided the rectangle for the painting. The saucer for such a cup could be either a circle or an oval. An oval shape was preferred so that the cup could essentially stand on its own anywhere on the saucer and create a free composition. To this end, a decoration was chosen that would not mimic the saucer shape; instead, the decoration consists of a ‘cut-out’ evoking the idea of a ‘doily’. This provided an artistic solution for where to place the names of the Madonnas.
The cups and saucers have a simple and contemporary shape; they do not try to imitate or copy historic forms. In essence, the shape is a stretched canvas for the painter, or more specifically, a canvas on which to reproduce the painting.
A contemporary porcelain cup-and-saucer design with a touch of Gothic heritage – that was the original intention of the artist.
Miroslav Páral

One of the richest collections of medieval panel paintings in Europe has been preserved in Bohemia. The numerous Madonna paintings attest to the piety of our ancestors. The majority of the preserved works come from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The most important were chosen as the motifs for the porcelain cups. The oldest one is the Madonna of Most (c.1340, National Gallery in Prague), probably from the St Mary Magdalene Convent in Zahražany, near Most. The Madonna depicted still has Byzantine features (the infant Jesus is clad, and Mary is wearing a maphorion), but there is an innovation in the form of a bird – a goldfinch – held by the infant Jesus, which points to Christ’s suffering. The infant Jesus is also holding a goldfinch in his hand in the Madonna of Veveří (c.1350, Diocesan Museum in Brno). Here, the Virgin Mary is already depicted as the Queen of Heaven (Regina coeli). Her royal rank is emphasised by her red cloak. This Madonna was probably commissioned either by Charles IV or his brother, the Margrave of Moravia, John Henry, for the chapel of the royal Veveří Castle. The Madonna of Zbraslav (c.1350, National Gallery in Prague) comes from the church of the Aula Regia Cistercian Abbey of Zbraslav. The Madonna is wearing a blue cloak and, similarly to the Madonna of Veveří, a royal crown, and the infant Jesus is holding a bird. In addition, the Madonna is wearing a ring on her finger which points to her as a mystic bride of Christ. It is very probable that the painting was donated by Charles IV to be near the grave of his mother, Elizabeth of Bohemia, who was buried at Zbraslav Abbey. The Madonna of Vyšehrad, also called the Rain Madonna (after 1355, National Gallery in Prague), very probably comes from the Annunciation of Our Lady monastery church that belonged to the Servites. The painting came to Vyšehrad at the end of the sixteenth century. She is depicted as the Virgin of Humility (Madonna dell’Umiltà), seated on the ground, with 12 stars around her head that identify her as an apocalyptic woman; beneath her feet, there is an upturned crescent – the symbol of Mary’s Annunciation. The Virgin Mary is also depicted breastfeeding (Maria lactans, Nursing Madonna). The painter who created this artwork was inspired by Bartolomeo da Camogli’s 1346 painting in Naples. At the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth centuries two Marian paintings were shown great reverence in Bohemia, the Madonna of Roudnice by the Master of the Třeboň Altarpiece (c.1380, National Gallery in Prague) and the St. Vitus Madonna (c.1400, National Gallery in Prague). The St. Vitus Madonna was commissioned either by Wenceslas IV’s chancellor and the Archbishop of Prague, Jan of Jenštejn, before 1396, or, more probably, by Oldřich Zajíc of Hazmburk, brother of Archbishop of Prague Zbyněk Zajíc of Hazmburk, who died in 1411. It depicts an uncrowned Virgin Mary holding the diagonally positioned body of a naked infant Jesus. His nudity symbolises the Eucharist, or Christ as a ‘new Adam’. Being formally refined, the St. Vitus Madonna belongs to the International Gothic style that dominated the arts in Bohemia around 1400. The painting is fitted in a wooden frame decorated with low-relief half-figures of John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, four angels, and the patron saints of Bohemia: St Wenceslas, St Sigismund, St Vitus, St Adalbert and St Procopius. The frame was carved by the sons of Petr Parléř, members of the so-called Prague Bachelors. During the Baroque period, the Madonna of Kamenný Újezd (1450–1460, Aleš South Bohemian Gallery) was revered as a compassion painting in All Saints parish church in Kamenný Újezd, near České Budějovice. It is a devotional copy of the Madonna of Doudleby that is based on a compassion painting of the Virgin Mary of Piekary (Piekary Śląskie in Upper Silesia), which is kept in Opole Cathedral. It is a Byzantine type of Virgin Hodegetria and the infant Jesus is not holding a scroll (logos), but a book.
Professor Jan Royt