Journal ARS 29 (1996) 1-3
K některým tradičním aspektům triforiové galerie svatovítského chrámu v Praze[To Some Traditional Aspects of the Triforium Gallery of St. Vitus's Cathedral in Prague]
The triforium of St. Vitus's Cathedral in Prague is one of the most original medieval architectural monuments in the historic Czech Lands. Its origin (between 1374 - 1385) connected with the personality of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV of the House of Luxembourg and the builder and sculptor of the Prague Cathedral, Peter Parler.
In general the progressive features of the Prague triforium, opening to road to modern European portrait are emphasised. But equally important are also its traditional, archaic, or definitely retrospective trends. On the one side it reflects the modern efforts to catch the unique character of the portrayed person, while on the other we still see the traditional hieratic frontality, the rigidity and archaism of the form proper of the bust as an ancient religious topic, whose formal genealogical tree does not seem to grow from the Antiquity, it is rather related to a medieval or Byzantine icon. We have to add to it the ambivalence of the public and private aspects: its view from distance (the stiff hieratic scheme) and the close view (intimacy, as one of the characteristic features of the private portray).
The problems have two basic aspects. One of them is the bust (or half figure) as a specific form of sculpture absorbing the reflections to its entire formal and iconographic past, and the respective semantic or symbolic connotations. The second aspect is the proper, concrete way of realising the portraits of the Prague triforium, in the background of which we can expect the creative invention of Peter Parler.
The half-figures (naturally beginning with the sculpture of Jesus Christ and the saints) were adapted to, and located in the tympanums, above the parapets of doors - above the passage-way, in the lunette of a portal (which was a place of extraordinary honour). This element is especially well-known in the Romanesque artistic tradition. Its affirmative effect consisted in the evocation of the above figures by looking at them from above.
In this respect the research opens - in my opinion - a relatively broad area for interpretation (e.g. the contingent relation between the composition of the triforium with the motif and symbolic of the architectural messages - gates, and between the pictorial formation of the Celestial Jerusalems, abounding namely in the Romanesque wall paintings). It seems that the group of sculptural "portraits" of saints in the external triforium might had been freely inspired (in a special spatial transposition) by a composition of the Celestial Jerusalem, a favourite motif of the Caroline art. Some interesting examples can also be found in the Czech environment on the full-page miniature of St. Augustine's "De civitate Dei", from about 1200, now at St. Vitus's Chapter Library in Prague.
It seems, that it will be necessary to reassess namely to approach to the art-history interpretation of the triforium in St. Vitus's Cathedral. We would probably face yet another if the concrete manifestations of the important phenomenon of the Czech Court culture - of its retrospective historising trends.