Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Rococo Treasures at Kvitkuv Dvur
Recently my husband and I were honoured with an invitation to look round the large courtyard farm of Kvitkuv Dvur on the hill behind Cesky Krumlov Castle. This is no ordinary courtyard farm - it was owned by the Schwarzenbergs, the Lords of the castle and provided produce for the Castle's heaving dining tables. At one point in the fashion of the time the chatelaine Marie Theresa Schwarzenberg decided to turn the farm into a place where she, like Marie Antoinette could play at farming. As a result Kvitkuv Dvur has hidden treasures.
We entered one of the main rooms and the owner opened the shutters one by one. With each shutter we gasped at what we saw revealed: a room with walls and ceiling covered with the finest rococo frescos. The frescos showed a series of scenes of the rural idyll – milking, the farmyard, a shepherdess, goat-herding, a man whittling, another gathering eggs (or doves) from a dovecote, and others.
On the ceiling the painting continues seamlessly with faux-balustrades from which people look down and a sky full of clouds and birds. This isn't the only visual joke the painter Jakub Prokys plays with us: at one point a card player is shown at full height (see photo). There is a lovely lightness of touch and humour in the paintings as well as a huge level of detail.
The tragedy of this wonderful place is that it is in desperate need of restoration. The owner is a doctor, who despite huge dedication and having putting every penny he had (and some he hadn't) into doing up the building, is struggling to meet the demands of his inheritance. As he put it “When the communists came they took it away from my family, then it was in good condition, now the state has given it back ruined, and I must meet the costs”. Such grants as are available are never given in their totality, but instead as a percentage for which he has to find the rest. Furthermore the grants are not given for the building in its entirety - so you can get a grant for the ceiling, but have to get a separate one for the roof, even though the latter directly impacts on the second.
I am sure this is a circumstance that is being repeated all over the Czech Republic. Our host is now under huge pressure to pay back the loans he took to start the restoration. He could sell up to a commercial operation which wants to turn the farm and surrounding land into an up-market golf course, but to do so feels like a betrayal of his forebears. He has a vision of area in front of the farm being the new site of the rotating theatre, which UNESCO is demanding is removed from the Castle Gardens, and the farm buildings forming the supporting buildings. But time is running out for him.