Antonio Canaletto (1697 - 1768)
The River Thames with St.Paul's Cathedral on Lord Mayor's day
Oil on canvas, c. 1748
The Lobkowicz Collections rank as one of the most significant and important private collections in all Europe, yet after 50 years behind the Iron Curtain, they are hardly known outside the Czech Republic.
The Lobkowicz family was at the center of power in Europe for over seven centuries, with close political, social and family ties to the Holy Roman Empire that ruled central Europe from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
In 1603, the marriage of the family patriarch, Zdenek Vojtech, 1st Prince Lobkowicz, to Polyxena Pernstejn, a descendent of the Royal Spanish Court, cemented the wealth and power of this ruling family. Over the centuries they became great and discerning patrons of the arts, with an emphasis on fine art and music. The Collections include outstanding works by Dürer, Cranach, Brueghel, Canaletto and Rubens, among others, together with fine Delft ceramics and porcelain, exquisite furniture, arms and armor. The Collections also features dozens of rare musical instruments, as well as several thousand manuscripts and scores (many of which are hand-annotated) by some of the world’s greatest composers, including Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Overall, the collection encompasses some 65,000 library volumes and millions of uncatalogued, archival documents stored in over 30,000 boxes and folios.
The family’s historic connection with music is especially strong. Beethoven dedicated a number of pieces, including the 3rd (Eroica), 5th, and 6th symphonies to his patron Joseph Franz Maximilian, 7th Prince Lobkowicz. The 7th Prince provided Beethoven with a regular annuity, but also the use of his orchestra and performance hall. The Eroica was first performed at the Lobkowicz Palace in Vienna in 1804. This symphony is now considered a watershed moment in music history that heralded the start of the Romantic era. Music history would be very different without the enlightened patronage, and genuine passion for music, of the Lobkowicz family.
The Lobkowicz Collections are unique for their quality, scale and diversity, but in particular because they are a rare example of a family collection that has remained intact, despite the upheavals of history, over 700 years. This history has left these remarkable collections in the shadows, and there have not been the resources to begin the vast project to catalogue and research the Collections in entirety. The new Lobkowicz Library and Study Center will allow the Collections to remain together, for the enjoyment and enrichment of scholars, students and enthusiasts all over the world, for the next 700 years.