Josef Krása

Josef Krása (9th August 1933–20th February 1985)

It is just 30 years when the medievalist Josef Krása, one of the most outstanding Czech art historians, died.  With his scholarship he was very closely linked with the Institute of Art and Art Theory of the Czechoslovac Academy of Sciences (CSAS). Here, he was active as a secretary as well as an editor-in-chief of the journal Umění. Besides his activities connected with the Institute he was a member of the Scientific Collegium of Art Disciplines  of the CSAS and of the International Committee of CIHA too. The membership not only in the mentioned institutes but also in many others advisory boards etc. enabled him to defend the art history in the normalization era (1970s), when he managed to promote the actual methodology and knowledge in the sphere of art history achieved in the countries behind the Iron Curtain. In April 2003 the Czech Academy of Sciences awarded Josef Krása with the František Palacký Plaque in memoriam for an important contribution on the fields of science.

Josef Krása focused on the medieval book painting, especially in the times of Wenceslas IV. His monograph Iluminované rukopisy Václava IV. (Illuminated Manuscripts of Wenceslas IV´ Era) dealing with the most luxurious manuscripts of this era has been still the most decisive work on this topic and as one of very few art historical books composed in Czech is was published also in a German translation. The same characteristic applies on the facsimile of Travels of John Mandeville, a manuscripts of Bohemian origin today in the British Library Add. 24198, which was provided with Krása´s commentary. The ability of Krása to distinguish the most important features of medieval art in Bohemia (astrological manuscripts, the iconography and production of royal seals as well as the West-European illuminated manuscripts in Czech collections) is still being appreciated not only by art historians but also by scholars of other scientific disciplines.

In the methodology Krása returned to the methods of the cultural history which he connected with a thorough acquaintance of historical sources and with the iconographic analysis in the political and historical context as well. Herewith, he based on the works of Hans Gombrich and Erwin Panofsky´s definition of iconography and its iconological interpretation. Applying these methods to the hitherto very mysterious motifs in the margins of the Bible of Wenceslas IV (today in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien) Krása as the first one refered to their intrisical coherence with the biblical illustration and text as well and thus refused all the ahistorical and mythical explanations suggested by Julius von Schlosser and his followers.


(translation of the abridged version of text by Milada Studničková published in the Akademický bulletin March 2015)

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