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27 April 2019

Dr Great Art Podcast Episode 50: PETR JAN BRANDL, the Baroque and Me, a personal story

FIFTY! Dr Great Art Podcast, Episode 50: Petr Brandl, Prague and Me. The once very famous Baroque painter from Bohemia/Czech Republic and my distant ancestor. And a Festival Brandl with Geisslers Hofcomoedianten in Prague!
#arthistory #drgreatart #markstaffbrandl #petrbrandl #prague #baroque


Dr Great Art Podcast 50

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 50th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one. 50!

Today my Artecdote concerns PETR JAN BRANDL, the Baroque and Me, a personal story

First, this is my 50th podcast episode! Wow! Most people burnout around 12. I never thought I'd get this far. Two years. Thank you to all my listeners and especially the regulars and those who have written to me or suggested the podcast on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

I AM very late for this one, as I was busy with a painting-installation in an outdoor exhibition space in St. Gallen Switzerland called Hiltibold, and we are renovating a major room in our 200+ year old Swiss farmhouse, and I was presenting a Dr Great Art performance-lecture in Prague Czech Republic--- which leads us to the topic today.

There is a significant theatre company in Prague calling themselves Geisslers Hofcomoedianten (named after a theatre company from long ago, in the days of the bilingual Bohemian Kingdom in what is now the Czech Republic). They did a weekend-long Brandl Festival in the Vila Štvanice of art historical presentations, a major new theater piece and more, all concerning Petr Jan Brandl, a major Bohemian, Prague, Baroque painter and my distant relative. They were kind enough to invite me to do a Dr Great Art performance-lecture (with a painting of mine) concerning Petr Brandl and me. They were wonderful hosts, the art historians were great, and the play was spectacular.

I first visited Prague in April 1995. That was not all that long after the velvet revolution of 1989 when Communism fell there. One visual impression stays with me till today. In around 1990, I saw one of the trains from then-Czechoslovakia going through St. Gallen Switzerland. On the side, where it had clearly originally had the large lettering 'CSSR' ('Czechoslovak Socialist Republic'), it had had the third letter careful and well hand-painted-over with an 'F', ' CSFR,' the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. Having had a father who was a proud sign-painter, that struck me especially strongly.

Back to my journey of discovery. I went with my wife and two friends to Vienna and had a great visit. Afterwards, my wife and one friend's husband had to go back to Switzerland for work, so the other friend Lamis and I went on to Prague. It is beautiful, I can greatly recommend it. At that point, 1995, it still was transitioning. Things had not been destroyed under Communism, but much had been neglected. Still, it was like a smaller Vienna. When I just went back now, 2019, most has been cleaned, updated and renovated. It was even prettier.

What did we do? We went to the famous places of which we knew. Such as the mechanical clock in the tower, the Charles Bridge, one Cubist building (among only a handful in the world.) We were staying on Starostrašnická Street. Sorry about the pronunciation . they have rows of consonants with no vowels which put even German to shame and totally befuddle and Anglophone. I insisted on going to the monument for Jan Hus. Hus, c. 1369 – 6 July, 1415, was a Czech theologian, philosopher, master, dean, and rector of the Charles University in Prague. Reformer, key predecessor to Protestantism and a seminal figure in the Bohemian Reformation. Burned at the stake by the Pope, but an inspiration to Luther. I love Heretics and Reformers.

Let me add, I had not yet ever heard of Petr Brandl. Every time I talked to people and said my name was “Mark Staff Brandl,” they would say "You have to go to the museum!" Needless to say, I was befuddled. I am well-known as an artist, but certainly not famous enough to reach there! They were just all beginning to speak English a lot, their ancient co-language of German had died out after Habsburg oppression, two world wars against the Germans and much else, so couldn't explain much. To make a long story somewhat shorter, I went. There was a huge hall full of marvelous paintings by a once famous and major Baroque painter, Petr Jan Brandl! The people at the museum were wonderful and thrilled by my name. They gave me a book and a postcard, all they then had. I begged to pay for it, but they refused!

The book is in Czech, however, I sent photocopies of the postcard to much of my family. Back came rumors --- family said, "oh yeah, we had heard there was some old artist there from the family, etc." I was astounded. Hey, I am the Dr of art history and an artist, why hadn't I heard anything?! My family has a history of artisans, such as goldsmiths, etc. including my artist, designer, display, sign-painter parents, but no known fine artists until me. I was thrilled and started to research. My sister Marcia, by the way, is still researching, had DNA done and so on, although mostly about my Mom's Volga German ancestry. More about that, perhaps, in a later podcast.

After much research, he appears to be my great, great, great, great, great, great, great uncle.

This all fits well into one of my ideé fixe, almost a bête noire, obsessions --- that is, the importance of art history, but the importance of critiquing it and expanding it as well!

So --- Where is Eastern European Art? Heck, I am a PhD in Art History, an artist, as I said, and he is my relative --- and he was famous and important --- and I had never heard of him?!!

But of course also, where are women and Africa, and South-East Asia, and Folk/Popular Culture and and and and …….

Dr Great art and all of us have A LOT to do!

Here is a Super Short History of Petr Brandl. I will refer to him mostly here as "Petr," which is unusual in English in history, as we use last names. But since it sounds odd, because it is also my name, I will use his first name. Brandl talks about Brandl doing this and that.

Petr Jan / Jan Petr / Johannes Peter BRANDL

- born Prague 24. Oct. 1660
-died Kutná Hora 24. Sept. 1735

6th Child of
father Michal Brandl, a tailor and pub-owner, Bohemian German
mother Alžběta Hrbková, a Czech from Bohemian Přestanice

Petr dropped out of Jesuit grammar school.

He then served an apprenticeship with court painter Kristián Schröder
This served as Petr's introduction to the world of art: Italian, Dutch, Flemish and Czech art
And to King Leopold I,. Petr was hailed as “The next Karel Škréta” (a wonderful Czech Baroque painter of the 17th century).

Petr Brandl, had a “Bohemian” lifestyle, (bohémien), as well as being an actual Bohemian. (I'll explain the origin of that word in a future podcast.) Petr was, and I quote, ---

- “Irresponsible,”

- Frequented pubs of ill-repute,

- Lived in noble residencies but also spent some short time in jail,

- He abandoned his wife Helena and their three children and paid no alimony for a long time,

- Sometimes took years to finish paintings already paid-for (shades of Leonardo)

- Left debts when he died for tobacco, wine, pigment, even rackets and balls


Petr Brandl had several periods in his artistic oeuvre, decades usually.


- Petr Brandl, Baptism of Christ, very Tintorettoesque to me

- 1715–1716

- Church of St. Jana Křtitele, Manětín



with sculptor Matyás Braun,

- Matyás Braun (& Petr Brandl)
c. 1710
Statue of St. Lutgardis, Charles Bridge

- Petr did the planning and reference drawings for Braun.


1720s Petr reached a unique balance, but with much drama, very Baroque

- Petr Brandl, 1721, Adoration of the Magi


Then came the amazing portraits, considered to be influenced by Jan Kupecký

- Portraits, of Apostles, living people, and a few genre paintings

- The portraits of the apostles are nowadays once again reaching wider levels of appreciation in art history, and they are indeed beautiful



- Only a handful, but truly great

His funeral in Kutná Hora was as dramatic as his paintings.

The Cistercians from Sedlec, the Jesuits from Kutná Hora, the town council, the Mining Authority and about 300 miners with lamps shining paid tribute to the painter who was laid to rest in the Church of the Virgin Mary.


Andrea Steckerová, the illustrious curator of the Collection of Old Masters of the National Gallery in Prague spoke at the Festival Brandl, gave me a grand new book she spearheaded concerning Petr, and in English! As she describes, professional interest in Petr Brandl even in the Czech Republic temporarily subsided after the death in 2001 of Jaromír Neumann, the most noted authority on Brandl’s work till then. The book is titled Petr Brandl 1668–1737 Studies. Andrea Steckerová (ed.) 700 Czech korunas, that's 31 Swiss francs or US $ 31.00.

Eleven extensive essays written by middle and younger generations of scholars who deal with unique aspects of the art of Petr Brandl, reflecting Neumann's earlier work, but also newer results from recently discovered artworks and archival material. 350 pages, 250 reproductions. A huge, impressive volume, especially for so little cost.

Baroque painter, Petr Brandl, will doubtless once again become a world-famous artist and his works will attract visitors. Appreciation of his, and other, Baroque painting in Bohemia / Czechia and will broaden the views of the 17th and 18th centuries.

We need more knowledge of Petr Brandl in English and in German and in other languages and cultures! Help Andrea Steckerová and me promote Brandl and Prague in Western Europe, Switzerland, Germany, and the UK and US!


That was Petr Brandl and Me. I will say more about the Festival and theatre and all in another podcast. But let me publicly thank Kateřina Bohadlová, Petr Hašek, Seňor Bohousch, and all the others!

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 50. If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch, with Performance-Paintings!

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations.

A recent one, as discussed here, was on Petr Brandl, the Prague Baroque artist and my distant relative, which I gave in Prague, Czech Republic!

You can find or contact me at (spell)

book me at (spell)

or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all as Dr Great Art.

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