The Head of Christ from the Destroyed Stone Pieta from Hradec Králové — Late Beautiful Style
The stone Head of Christ in the collections of the Museum of East Bohemia in Hradec Králové, all that remains of a large, iconoclastically destroyed Pieta in the Beautiful Style (hypothetical height c. 110 cm), has often been exhibited abroad and was for a long time on loan to the exhibition of Bohemian medieval art in the National Gallery in Prague. Until recently it was on show as the main exhibit in the prematurely closed exhibition ‘Among the Bohemian Crown Jewels: Gothic and early Renaissance art of East Bohemia’ (Museum of East Bohemia in Hradec Králové). Its arthistorical interpretation touches on several key issues of the Bohemian Beautiful Style. The Hradec Králové fragment was discovered for Czech art history by Ivo Kořán, who told Albert Kutal, who in 1951 became the first to publish it. He assigned it to the group of classical Beautiful Style pietas of Jihlava, Magdeburg and Admont (Admont I). The author of the essay differs from subsequent research in not agreeing with the stylistic classification and the dating of the fragment. He was led to this by more accurate observation of the fragment itself. It should be noted that the hair down the right side of Christ in the view en face leaves an extremely disordered impression. Moreover, a weaker strand of hair brushing the temple of the face only imitates an engraved drawing, while the beard on the other side is really just indicated. This ‘carelessness’ does not correspond with the precise execution of the madonnas and pietas of the classical phase of the Bohemian Beautiful Style, processed with the same care on every side. The Pieta to which it belonged plainly originated at a later date, when the sculptural perfection of the Bohemian Beautiful Style had ceased to be current — suspended by distinct functions of sacred sculpture. The Hradec Králové head of Christ evidently does not belong to the classic phase of Bohemian Beautiful Style around 1380–1400. The reduced Hradec Králové fragment originated at a relatively late date, probably not until around 1430.
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