of the villa Kratochvíle

In the place of the current chateau, a farmyard called Leptáč once stood, donated in 1569 by Wilhelm of Rosenberg to the regent of the Rosenberg domain, and famous builder of the South Bohemian ponds, Jakub Krčín of Jelčany. Krčín built a new yard here, with a large hunting gamepark around it. Such a nice yard was so good looking for the Rosenberg lord that he traded it with Krčín for the town of Sedlčany with 10 villages in 1579. In 1583, Wilhelm of Rosenberg commissioned the Italian master builder Baldassaro Maggi of Arogno to build him a new hunting castle next to Leptáč, to resemble Italian villas.

The experienced master builder proved he was able to cope well with the task, very unusual for cinquecento architects in the Central Europe: to make a concept and a project design for a regular area – a building inside a garden, using Italian Renaissance works as a model. Maggi projected the area as a large rectangle, with three houses built in the outer wall on three sides. The villa wasn’t built in the center of the rectangle; instead, Maggi placed it to the front side of the garden, perpendicularly to the main axis emphasized by the front tower. The ground floor entrance part was finished with a garden house in the west, and by a small church in the east. A rectangular moat was fitted with its own fence.

It’s difficult to find direct models for this Rosenberg summerhouse. The arrangement of the ground floor in the residence indicates that Maggi was close to one of the projects by Francesco di Giorgio Martini; also similar is the arrangement of a famous Villa Farnesina in Rome, built by B. Peruzzi in 1505 - 1511.

Difficult terrain conditions, mainly due to the swampy ground, required the reinforcement of the foundations by alder pillars. Due to the absence of air in the mud the pillars turned to stone, and became vital for the statics of the building.

Such a demanding project was finished in only 6 years (1583 - 1589), including numerous paintings and stucco decorations made by painter Georg Widman and Italian stucco artist Antonio Melana. Most of the decorations on the ground floor of the residence were made by Georg Widman who painted the vaults of the large entrance hall with hunting scenes and animals from the woodcuts of Jost Amman, and Hendrick Goltzius’s hunters. He therefore used two very popular books, published between 1569 and 1617: Tierbuch and Jagdbuch, by drawer Johann Bocksberger and engraver Jost Amman.  On the first floor, the decorations are more original and more interesting. The central picture in the vault of the Golden Room, depicting the Old Testament legend of Samson and Delilah, was made by Widman according to the copperplate by a famous Rudolphine engraver Raphael Sadeler, who had also used a model: drawings by Jodok and Wingh from 1589. Other four pictures of the Samson-inspired cycle were made later, by a Widman’s associate; again, they were inspired by illustrations by J. Bocksberger and J. Amman. However, the decorations near the windows present Widman’s original figures: a lute player, goddess Juno with a peacock, and a goddess of wisdom and victory in war, Pallas Athena. The ruler’s room was decorated by Widman with a grotesque painting with plant and animal figures, fish and crayfish, as a hint of ponds, so typical for the South Bohemian landscape.

The stucco decorations of the villa and the Church of the Birth of Virgin Mary were made by Antonio Melana, one of the Italian artists who worked for the house of Rosenberg in the 16th century. He was an excellent decorator with a great sense of detail. In his decorations of the living quarters at the chateau, he turned Renaissance graphic art into plastic scenes in the ancient style. The decorations primarily focused on the Virtues, represented by allegorical figures in two series. The Antechamber presents principal and theological virtues; principal virtues are also presented in the Golden Hall, in the center of the vault between the crests of Wilhelm Rosenberg’s four wives, around the central figure of the Rosenberg Rider. The Golden Hall is the most spectacular and most opulent room of the chateau. It was used for various social events, and due to its excellent acoustic features, also for musical performances. The paintings here are limited to the wallpaper with brocade pattern, and the decorations of door reveals and window alcoves. Predominant are the figural stuccos by Antonio Melana. The scenes from the Roman history aren’t arranged chronologically; instead, their order enables them to fill the spaces in the vault suitably. The stucco decorations of the ceiling and the walls of the Golden Hall were polychromed, and often gilded. The guests should have been stunned by the wealth, taste and social status of the owner right away at the entrance. The decorations and architectural concept make this hall truly unique among our Renaissance buildings.

The chateau chapel of the Birth of Virgin Mary is one of the few late Renaissance sacral buildings in Bohemia. In architectural terms it’s rather inconspicuous, yet the interior is generously structured, and the liturgical importance of the choir is emphasized by its festive form. The vaults of the chapel are lavishly decorated. The sacral area features not only modest decorative stuccos but also an opulent painting of a passion play, according to graphics by Albrecht Dürer and drawings by Marten de Vos, adapted by Antonius Wiericx.

After the death of Wilhelm of Rosenberg (1592), Kratochvíle was in control of the last Rosenberg ruler Peter Vok. When plague broke out in Krumau (Český Krumlov) in June 1598, Peter Vok moved to Kratochvíle with his whole court, and stayed until the following May. In 1601, unfavorable financial situation forced Vok to sell the Krumau domain, including Chateau Kratochvíle, to Emperor Rudolph II. However, the emperor never visited the chateau, and only knew his new domain from several pictures painted by Bartoloměj Beránek-Jelínek.

In 1622, the Krumau domain, including Chateau Kratochvíle, was acquired by the Styrian nobleman John of Eggenberg, as a compensation for financial support provided for Emperor Ferdinand II.

In 1719, the Krumau domain was acquired by new owners – the House of Schwarzenberg. During the rule of Duke Joseph Adam in 1762 – 1764, the original Renaissance roof was replaced by the current double garret type. The frequent visits to Kratochvíle ceased; the lords favored the chateau Ohrada and Libějovice for hunting. Apartments for clerks were built in the villa. In the 19th century, the Schwarzenbergs established an orphanage at Kratochvíle, together with the archive and the museum of the local art of Netolice and Prachatice domain.

After 1922, the chateau was nationalized after the land reform. Between 1926 and 1933, it was used by the Regional Agricultural Museum; in the end of WW2, the collections of the City Museum of České Budějovice (Budweis) were stored here. In 1950, the Nation Cultural Committee took over and put the chateau into the 1st category of cultural heritage sites. Since the 1950s, construction and restoration works were performed at the chateau. The stuccos were repaired, the sgraffiti and wall paintings restored, the building was secured statically. Between 1981 and 2006, the exhibition of the Czech animated films was installed here, for which all the indoor areas were adapted.

The turning point came in 2006, when the film exhibition was removed. Then, the project “Renaissance of the Renaissance” started at Kratochvíle, aimed at returning the chateau into the authentic appearance that respects its architectural and artistic value, and create the interior exhibition presenting the era of the late Rosenberg house. The project was completed in 2011, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Peter Vok of Rosenberg and the end of the house.