The stunning door in New Town Prague by Ferdinand Brokoff: master of bohemian Baroque sculpture
The magniﬁcent celebration of Prague comes also with an outstanding exhibition of Baroque works of ﬁne art, theater and concerts of Baroque music which brings to our awareness the spirit and artistic values of the century Bohemia – Even though Prague is most associated with the modern era of Art Nouveau. As a rule Baroque Prague was all about projecting power and wealth with grand entrances, entrance halls, massive staircases, opulent state rooms and immense art.
During the 17th and 18th centuries the inhabitants of Prague’s towns could see the results of high-quality arts and crafts production at virtually every step, at home and at work, at the market and in church, at times of birth and death. Probably the most important sculptors of Czech Baroque were Matthias Bernard Braun and Ferdinand Maxmilian Brokoff.
Brokoff was born in Červený hrádek near Chomutov, the second son of Elisabeth and Jan Brokoff, the sculptor of St. John Nepomuk´s statue on Charles Bridge. At the beginning he mostly helped his father but from 1708 he worked independently and two years later, at the age of 22, he became known for his work on several statues on the Charles bridge in Prague, including the statue of St. Adalbert.
One of the ﬁgures of Brokoﬀ ’s sculptural group St Francis Xavier (1711) on Charles Bridge is identiﬁed in 1930´s literature on art history as the sculptor’s self-portrait. Oldřich Blažíček in fact went as far as to write that “the life-like portrayal of the features of this ﬁgure actually gave Štech the idea that it was made from a cast of Ferdinand’s own face”. The manner in which the statue of a young man is often reproduced corresponds with this notion.
He worked mainly in Prague and since 1714 created with the participation of Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer of Erlach the tombstone of Jan Václav Vratislav of Mitrovice and worked on different churches and private buildings. Ferdinand’s work and knowledge of working with marble suggests that he may have gained experience abroad, in Vienna at the Strudel Brothers’ Academy of Court Artists and in Rome, where he may have been influenced by the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Not everyone knows one the less know work by Brokoff and it’s particularly interesting for our page because a well preserved portal on the left side of an original baroque building. Nowdays a the functionalist new building took place on the site in 1927-29 according to a design by B. Sláma.
But the portal was saved and it survived until our days. ❤️
The corner functionalist building in Navrátivola street was built as a multifunctional building with commercial and residential premises, a cinema and a restaurant. It is situated on the site of the former Baroque house U Hopfenštoků, from which a portal with statues of Atlanteans by Jan Brokoff and his son Ferdinand Maximilian dating from 1710 has been preserved on the north side. Another Baroque sculpture is located in the passage (lion with cartouche). The mass of the building is divided with receding floors and a risalit of the staircase with continuous windows. The ground floor and the first floor are glazed, as well as a wide ground floor passage with shop windows. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful works of its kind performed by the Brokoff in Prague, although it’s less famous than many other works.
The extensive sculptural and carving work of Ferdinand Brokoff is often described as a pearl of Czech Baroque art in the first half of the 18th century. He most often worked with sandstone, but also mastered working with marble and wood. The basis of Brokoff’s sculptural expression is a realistic depiction of reality, which he mixes with Baroque illusionism. He drew from the ancient concept of sculpture, depicted figures of realistic proportions in counterpost, expressed natural movement and matter, and strengthened the basic volume schedule by treating drapery.