Here you can wander around displays of the maestro’s personal possessions: a copy of his birth certificate, pictures of his family and friends, a photo of the house on Žitná street where the Dvořáks lived starting in 1877; his handwritten letters and manuscripts, articles written in newspapers about him, posters, and other personal objects.
The permanent exhibition, open all year round, is divided into several categories detailing Dvořák’s life, work, pedagogical activities, and concert performances, starting from his birth and childhood and ending with the last years before his death. The museum provides guided tours in English and German; printed guidebooks are also available in Japanese, Chinese, and in some European languages.
The museum is housed in a lovely villa, a Baroque summer house. Jan Václav Michna of Vacínov built it in 1717-1720 according to a design by Kilian Ignac Dienzenhofer. Here you can experience the flavor of a true suburban aristocratic villa typical of the era.
In the early 1930’s the building was acquired by the Prague Society, later renamed the Antonín Dvořák Society, to house a monument to him. The museum opened to the public in 1932. The current exhibition opened in 1991 in the jubilee year celebrating the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Today the museum is a part of the Czech Museum of Music, within the complex of the National Museum holdings, and works in cooperation with the Antonín Dvořák Memorial in Nelahozeves.
After understanding something of his life you follow the winding staircase up to the second floor. The large, open room at the top is astonishingly beautiful, painted by Johann Ferdinand Schorri (1684-1767). The frescoes of the four figures at the ceiling corners express the three sister branches of Arts (architecture, painting, and music) and one fresco depicts the death of Archimedes, absorbed in geometry. The original wall paintings depict Athena, Hermes (Mercury), and Artemis (Diana) between Tuscan pillars.
In addition to gorgeous concert space, the second floor provides a place for regular children’s programs in drawing and music. Special presentations on Dvořák’s life, music, or the museum can be arranged for educational groups. The second floor can also be rented for conferences, concerts, and lectures.
In summer, visitors can rest and enjoy the beautiful garden, with recorded selections of Dvořák’s music wafting through the background. The museum also has a small shop selling souvenirs, printed sheet music, and recordings of local and international labels.
A final thought for visitors comes from Dvořák himself: his quote found at the bottom of the stairs, “My motto is and always will be: God, Love and Homeland! Only these things bring you final happiness.”
And with that, visitors need nothing more. oo
How to Find the Museum: In the IP Pavlova metro, follow the Dvořák Museum sign up the steps; go straight to the small ‘y’ intersection, down the left ‘fork’ (follow this guy with the red backpack, left photo below). At the corner with the iron fence, Ke Karlovo street (right photo), turn left. The museum is set up and back from the road, on the left.
Quick Review: Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
- Born in the village of Nelahozeves near Prague
- Buried in the famous Vyšehrad Cemetery, Prague
- Wrote 9 symphonies, 10 operas, more than 40 works for strings, and 4 choral works. Among the best known: ‘New World’ Symphony, Slavonic Dances, ’American’ String Quartet, Cello Concerto in B Minor
The Antonín Dvořák Museum: Ke Karlovu 20, Prague 2 (near IP Pavlova metro station)
- Hours: Tues-Sun 10-17; closed Mon and at lunch times; times vary seasonally
- Museum website: http://www.nm.cz/ click on English, Long-term exhibitions
Photo Credits: Top: Antonín Dvořák Museum; all others, Mary Matz