Alphonse Mucha Heir Sues Prague to Prevent ‘Slav Epic’ from Touring

Is the city taking proper care of the monumental paintings?

Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha’s magnum opus, the Slav Epic, is again the subject of legal disputes in the face of a proposed two-year tour of museums in Japan, China, and potentially South Korea and the US, the Art Newspaper reports.

The artist’s estate, worried for the posterity of the paintings, is suing the city of Prague in an attempt to keep them in one place—and in one piece.

The Slav Epic consumed Mucha’s late career. Conceived in 1899 and completed in 1926, it depicts 20 episodes of Slavic history on a monumental scale in oil and tempera on canvas.

Together with US businessman Charles Richard Crane, who funded the project, Mucha gifted the epic to the city of Prague in 1928, stipulating only that the city build a permanent pavilion to house it.

However, political turmoil throughout the 20th century put the pavilion on the back burner. Instead, it was displayed at in the South Moravian town of Moravský Krumlov, as no suitable exhibition space could be found in Prague.

Alphonse Mucha, Slavs in their Original Homeland (1912), from the Slav Epic. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Alphonse Mucha, Slavs in their Original Homeland (1912), from the Slav Epic. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

In 2010, the Epic cycle was indeed moved to the Czech capital, but the new venue, the Veletrzní Palác—the “trade fair palace” that holds a significant portion of the National Gallery’s collection—is considered unsatisfactory by some conservators (not to mention that it was used as a holding center for Jews, including some of Mucha’s family, awaiting deportation during World War II).

But above all, the city’s lease on the building is up in December, meaning that finding a new home for the Slav Epic is a pressing issue.

While the city sees a tour as a solution, the artist’s grandson, John Mucha, filed a lawsuit in March against the city, claiming that, since no exhibition space was ever built, the city never formally accepted the conditions of the gift. The lawsuit, thus, demands that the Slav Epic be returned to Mucha’s heirs.

A hearing is scheduled for January 18, and the earliest planned tour date is March 5 at the National Art Center in Tokyo.


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