Prague, Czech Republic – The city of Prague is not the lawful owner of the Slav Epic, the monumental cycle of Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha, the district court of Prague 1 ruled this week.
With this verdict, the latest in a years-long judicial battle over Mucha’s masterpiece, the court upheld the lawsuit of the artist’s relatives, who claim Prague never became the legal owner of the Slav Epic due to its failure to comply with the artist’s wishes and demands.
Before his death, Mucha stated that the Slav Epic, a 20-painting series retracing Slavic history and mythology through the ages, could be bestowed to Prague only if municipal authorities built a special and permanent exhibition hall to showcase the canvases, at its own expense.
The venue was never built, and the Slav Epic has been regularly moved from one exhibition place to another for years, being presented successively at Moravsky Krumlov’s castle, Prague’s Veletrzni Palace and even making its way to Tokyo three years ago as part of the Year of Czech Culture in Japan.
In 2018, an agreement was found to temporarily display half of the paintings in Prague’s Municipal House (Obecni Dum) and the other half in Brno’s Exhibition Centre.
The city of Prague had commissioned the Institute of Planning and Development (IPR) to find a suitable permanent location for the artwork, and decided last year to return the cycle of paintings to Moravsky Krumlov in Moravia – Mucha’s native region – until such a place is found.
Tuesday’s verdict is however not final, and the city of Prague said it would appeal the decision.
Even if the court of appeals upholds the ruling, additional inheritance proceedings would be needed to name John Mucha and his half-sister Jarmila Mucha Plockova as legal heirs and rightful owners of the paintings.