Museologist discovers the story behind one of the paintings at Bojnice castle

The man in the picture is wearing a theatrical costume from the horse ballet that took place in 1667 in Vienna.

Benjamin Block or Gerard Du Chateau: Portrait of Emperor Joseph I., 1680-1690, 205x126 cmBenjamin Block or Gerard Du Chateau: Portrait of Emperor Joseph I., 1680-1690, 205x126 cm (Source: Collection of SNM - Museum Bojnice)

Museologist Katarína Malečková from the Slovak National Museum – Museum Bojnice has discovered the story hiding behind one of the paintings in the local collection called the Spanish Infant.

The painting depicts Joseph I. (1678-1711) shortly after he was crowned as emperor. The painting belonged to the collection of Count Ján František Pálffy, according to Malečková.

His great collection included several thousand objects and after his death, the collection fell apart. His heirs did not respect his last will and testament and there were court cases over the distribution of his property. Afterwards, some collections remained in the family, some belonged to the state and others were sold at auction.

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“We do not know where the Count bought it, but we do know that it was part of the collection in the Kráľova pri Senci manor house, which was the family seat of the Pálffy family,” she explained, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

It was sold by auction in Piešťany in 1924. It is probable that it was bought by Carl Stummer, who owned the manor house in Tovarníky and was a great collector of art, she went on.

Horse ballet from Vienna

In the 1950's the painting was appropriated by the state as part of the confiscation of private property and transported to Bojnice castle where it was kept with the art collected from the monasteries in the area of upper Nitra.

“It is a very large portrait of a young man in a very decorative baroque, theatrical costume,” she said, as quoted by TASR.

When Malečková continued her investigation she learnt that he is dressed in a theatrical costume used for a show that took place in 1667 in Vienna. It was called La contesa dell' Aria e dell' Acqua and it was part of the two-year long wedding celebrations of Leopold I. and the Spanish Infanta Margaret Theresia. Joseph I. was son of Leopold from his third marriage

Son of Leopold

The play took place in the courtyard of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna in January 1667 with more than 1,300 performers. Leopold I. and Gundakar Dietrichstein are portrayed as participants of the horse ballet in a painting by Jan Thomas van Yperen.

This portrayal of Leopold I. was probably the model for the portrait of Joseph I. There are two painters who could have painted it, as they were both established at the Emperor’s Court – Benjamin Block or Gerard Du Chateau.

“He is depicted shortly after his coronation when he was appointed Holy Roman Emperor. He is wearing a decorated costume covered with precious stones and a gigantic crown with feathers. A man of colour is holding his coat, which shows his high status,” Malečková added, as quoted by the TASR.

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