While not as well known as the paintings, books and music associated with the Lobkowiczes, decorative and sacred arts objects, dating from the 13th through the 20th centuries, form a significant part of The Collections.
Religious and Decorative Arts
During the forced occupations of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis and the later period of Communist rule, the private chapels in the family’s principal residences were desecrated and their contents dispersed. Important artifacts survived, including a 12th-century reliquary cross of rock crystal and gilded copper. The gold reliquary head of a female saint, possibly St. Ursula, dated c. 1300, was found in a trunk of theatrical props and recognized for the ancient treasure it is. This treasure, today, known as the Jezeri Bust, is on display at the Lobkowicz Palace Museum in Prague.
The spectacular Hassenstein altarpiece at Nelahozeves Castle is a masterpiece of decorative workmanship. Created by Hans Plock, it was originally commissioned by the Archbishop of Mainz in 1522, and later adapted to commemorate the marriage of Bohuslav Felix of Lobkowicz (of the Hassenstein line) and Anna Fictum. Three-dimensional figures inspired from the style adopted by the school of Cranach are mounted against elaborate backgrounds of rich gold and silver thread embroidery set with seed pearls and semi-precious stones.
Late-Renaissance and early-baroque ceramics from Italy feature prominently in The Collections. Several pieces of colorful Deruta ware are considered to be some of the earliest Italian ceramics brought back to Bohemia. Ordered during a trip to Italy in 1551, the pieces are colorfully decorated with an image of a bull, which was the Pernstejn family crest.
By the late 17th century, Chinese hard-paste porcelain had become the great obsession of European rulers and aristocrats. The Dutch workshops at Delft created tin-glazed earthenware that was an early European imitation of the expensive Chinese ware. Around 1680 when he was Imperial Envoy to the Netherlands, Wenzel Ferdinand, Count Lobkowicz of Bilina, commissioned a personalized service, which was designed with intricate overlapping letters of his initials WL. The set today, with its 150 pieces, is today the largest surviving Delft dinner service. A selection of pieces can be viewed at the Lobkowicz Palace Museum in Prague. In the spring of 2000, over sixty pieces from this service were lent to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, to be displayed as part of The Glory of the Golden Age exhibition.
The famous Meissen factory outside Dresden finally discovered how to produce authentic hard-paste porcelain for the first time outside of Asia in the first decade of the 18th century. The factory’s proximity to the Lobkowicz landholdings and castles helped encourage the prevalence of 18th- and 19th-century examples in The Collections, ranging from the earlier delicate chinoiserie motifs to the more traditional European elements and designs with fruits and flowers.
Some of the most refined cabinetmaking and marquetry in The Collections come from the Eger craftsmen who worked in Western Bohemia throughout the 17th century. Several Eger jewelry cabinets rank among the finest ever produced. Other remarkable pieces include caskets, tables and games boards, which are lavishly inlaid with ivory, mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell, depicting exquisite landscapes, animals and classical motifs.