Charles IV

This page is dedicated to the medieval painter Master Theodoric (aka Magister Theodoricus), who was a court painter of emperor Charles IV (14th century).
His greatest work are the panel paintings in the chapel of the Holy Cross in Karlstein Castle, near Prague.

Magister Theodoricus

Magister Theodoricus, Court painter of Emperor Charles IV, drew and still draws attention of numerous Czech and foreign art historians. This is so not only because he is the first Czech painter confirmed by archival documents and his authorship can be reliably identified with specific preserved historic monuments, but above all because of his art.

His paintings have been almost miraculously preserved at the chapel of the Holy Cross at Karlstein - in all 129 panel paintings and wall-paintings. The decorations of the chapel, their concept, number and quality of the paintings, have only few equals in the world: we believe that it is no exaggeration to say that they bear comparison with such artistic monuments and phenomena as the Arena in Padua, the churches at Assisi or Sta. Croce in Florence in Italy, in France the palace of the popes in Avignon and the expanding culture at the Angers or Paris courts.

The splendour and magnificence of the embelishments of the Karlstein sanctuary fully corresponded to the role, for which it was created - treasury of the most holy relics of Christendom. Only once Charles IV was crowned king of Bohemia, did he have the economic means for such monumental and costly art projects - these included, in addition to St. Vitus cathedral in Prague, the founding of the Prague New Town or Vysehrad, most certainly also castle Karlstein.

Although Master Theodoric was indubitably an outstanding artistic personality, several other artists were partners in this enterprise, obviously under his guidance, which concerned both ideological and artistic concepts. Without the understanding and generosity extended by the educated and art-loving Emperor Charles IV to his artists and architects, Theodoric's great genius could not have fully enfolded. Other personalities of the Imperial Court also provided substantial support - especially the Emperor's chancellor Jan of Streda and the Prague archbishop Arnost of Pardubice.

Although many pages have been written about the ideological concept and artistic decorations of Karlstein, the castle did not escape considerable mythicizing - and that will no doubt continue in the future, too. It all started with 19th-century Romanticism. Historians will always strive to objectively assess all circumstances that led to the building of the castle and its decorating and to submit their findings to the general public.

from "Magister Theodoricus, court painter of Emperor Charles IV" by Jiri Fajt & Jan Royt, published by the National Gallery in Prague in 1997 (ISBN 80-7035-161-6) on occasion of the exhibition of Theodoricus' work in the convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia 12 November 1997 to 26 April 1998

the master theodoric pages have been online since April 1998.
last update with link checking, Sunday, August 7th 2005.
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