The Kratochvíle Chateau
National Cultural Monument
In the place of the château used to stand a farm called Leptáč, donated in 1569 by Vilém of Rožmberk to the regent of the Rožmberk dominion, the well-known builder of South Bohemian ponds, Jakub Krčín of Jelčany. Krčín built a new farm with large deer part. The Rožmberk ruler took such a liking to this charmingly located mansion that he exchanged it with Krčín in 1579 for the townlet of Sedlčany and ten villages. In 1583 Vilém of Rožmberk asked the Italian architect Baldassar Maggi of Arogno to build a new hunting château in the vinicity of Leptáč, after the model of Italian villas.
The experienced Rožmberk architect carried out the task to perfection, although it was an exceptional task for a cinquecento architect in Central Europe: to undertake a unified conception of the regular complex and erect the construction in a garden composed in the Italian Renaissance style. Maggi divided the grounds into a large rectangle surrounded by a wall including small houses isolated on three sides. The óvilla was not placed in the middle but in the front of the garden, vertically to the main axis emphasized by the entrance tower. The ground entrance wing was completed by a garden cottage on the western side, and by a small church on the eastern side. And he incorporated an independent moat in a symmetrical rectangle.
It is difficult to find direct models for this Rožmberk summer residence. The ground-floor arrangement of the house resembles one of the villa desing by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, and the disposition of the famous Rome Villa Farnesina by B. Peruzzi from 1505 – 1511 is also similar.
The difficult condition, mainly the swampy foundation, require a fortification by alder-tree piles, which petrified in the mud in the absence of air and became an important static element of the construction.
This demanding construction of the whole complex was completed in the remarkably short time of six years (1583 – 1589), including the extensive painting and stucco decoration, done by painter Georg Widman and Italian stucco artist Antonio Melana.
Painter Georg Widman worked mainly on the ground floor of the residential building; he did hunting scenes and animals from Jost Amman`s woodcuts on the vaults of the large entrance hall, as well as hunters from the series of Hendrich Goltzio. The paintings were based on two popular books of the time, published between 1569 – 1617, Tierbuch and Jagdbuch, made by draughtsman Johan Bocksberger and engraver Jost Amman. More interesting ideas are presented on the first floor. The central painting of the vault in the study
of Vilém of Rožmberk, representing the figures from the Old Testament legend about Samson and Deliah, was painted by Widman after a copper engraving of the famous engraver Rafael Sadeler from the Rudolf period, made after the drawings by Jodok A. Wingh from 1589. The other four paintings of the Samson cycle were done later by Widman`s collaborator, again based on the illustration by J. Bocksberger and J. Amman. Widman situates them by the window; there is the female lute-player, Juno and a peacock, and the goddess of wisdom and victory, Pallas Athené. The other rooms are decorated in the grotesque style, also by Widman, using with feeling animal and floral motifs, fish and crayfish, a reminder of the ponds typical of the South Bohemian landscape.
Antonio Melana is the autor of the stucco decorations of the villa and the Church of Virgin Mary. Melana was one of the group of Italian masters who worked for the lords of Hradec and Rožmberk in the 16th century. He was an excellent decorateur with a feeling for detail. When working on the residential rooms of the château, he turned the Renaissance graphic art into Antiquity-like plastic scenes that bear comparison with the outstanding stucco work from the Hvězda Summer House, which are older by some thirty years. The chief idea of the programme of the decoration consists in the Virtues, represented by allegorical figures in two series – cardinal and theological virtues feature in the White room, while the Golden Hall houses only cardinal features. They are located in the middle of the vault, among the emblems of the four women of Vilém of Rožmberk. Around the central Rožmberk rider. The Golden Hall is the most sumptuous room in the château. It served to receive visitors, but thanks to its excellent accoustic qualities it was also used as a musical salon. Paintings are restricted to a painted wall-paper with a brocade pattern, and to the decoration of the door reveal and window recesses. The figural stucco by Antonio Melana dominates the space entirely. The sequence of scenes from Roman history is not chronologically arranged, but the scenes follow each other to fill the vault in a suitable manner. The stucco ornaments on the ceiling and walls of thr
Golden Hall were polychromed and most of them were gilted. When entering, the visitor was to be overwhelmed by the wealth, love of art and taste of the owner, by his social position. By its decoration and architectonic solution, this hall is truly unique in our Renaissance architecture.
The château Chapel of Virgin Mary is one of the few ecclesiastic construction from
period of the late Renaissance in Bohemia. It has a modest disposition, but the interior is richly divided and the liturgic significance of the choir is enhanced by its festive fotm. The vaults of the chapel are also largely decorated. The austere decorative stucco in the sacral Passion cycle made after the graphic sheets of Albrecht Dürer and drawings by Marten de Vos in the graphic transcription of Antonio Wiericx.
A Renaissance jewel in the swampy land among the ponds of the Netolice Basin, an architectonic dream of a romantic Italian architect, who remembers his distant home in foreing services. Czech landscape and a North Italian casino. A lord’s whim, which brought about such a splendid result. All this is Kratochvíle.
It has survived centuries and has been preserved until today. A whimsical stop in the rush of life. An opportunity to think for a while about the passing of time. It calls on the visitor to find peace and regenerate one‘s spiritual forces. Let us obey this call and reflect about the past tales of passion, and if we understand them, we shall be able to understand ourselves.