Museum of Decorative Arts
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Museum of Decorative Arts information
Lonely Planet review
This museum opened in 1900 as part of a European movement to encourage a return to the aesthetic values sacrificed to the Industrial Revolution. Its four halls are a feast for the eyes, full of 16th- to 19th-century artefacts such as furniture, tapestries, porcelain and a fabulous collection of glasswork.
The neo-Renaissance building is itself a work of art, the facade decorated with reliefs representing the various decorative arts and the Bohemian towns famous for them. The staircase leading up from the entrance hall to the main exhibition on the 2nd floor is beautifully decorated with colourful ceramics, stained-glass windows and frescoes representing graphic arts, metalworking, ceramics, glassmaking and goldsmithing. It leads to the ornate Votive Hall , which houses the Karlštejn Treasure , a hoard of 14th-century silver found hidden in the walls of Karlštejn Castle in the 19th century.
To the right is a textiles exhibit and a fascinating collection of clocks, watches, sundials and astronomical devices, but the good stuff is to the left in the glass and ceramics hall – exquisite baroque glassware, a fine collection of Meissen porcelain and a range of Czech glass, ceramics and furniture in cubist, art nouveau and art deco styles, the best pieces being by Josef Gočár and Pavel Janák. The graphic arts section has some fine art nouveau posters, and the gold and jewellery exhibit contains some real curiosities – amid the Bohemian garnet brooches, 14th-century chalices, diamond-studded monstrances and art nouveau silverware you will find a Chinese rhino-horn vase in a silver mount, a delicate nautilus shell engraved with battle scenes, and a silver watchcase in the shape of a skull.
Labels are in Czech, but detailed English and French texts are available in each room. What you see is only a fraction of the collection; other bits appear now and then in single-theme exhibitions.