Alphonse Mucha: 'The Slav Epic' cycle No.2 - The Celebration of Svantovít (When Gods Are at War, Salvation is in the Arts), (1912)
(National Gallery's Veletržní Palace, Prague, Czech Republic)
The Slav Epic is a series of 20 paintings depicting the history of the Slav people. Mucha worked for about 18 years to complete the entire cycle. This is painting number 2 of the cycle. It depicts the worship of Svantovít - the Slavic god of war, fertility and abundance. The main place of worship of this god was on the island of Rügen in the Baltic sea. Each autumn pilgrims would gather at the temple of Svantovít to celebrate the annual harvest festival. In 1168, the Danes commanded by their king Valdemar I the Great and bishop Absalon of Roskilde, attacked the island and destroyed the temple of Svantovít. By Mucha's time, the temple had acquired mythic status as a symbol of former Slavic glory. Mucha shows the history of the temple on this painting. In the lower half you can see the worship of Svantovít, the structure on the left is the temple of Svantovít. On the top left you can see the Danes coming to destroy the temple - a warrior with 3 dogs. Top center is a rather complex image. The person on horseback is a dying Slavic warrior. His sword (the vertical shaft of blue/white) is taken by the figure behind him. This is Svantovít who takes the sword to protect the future of the Slavs. Also important is the woman with child in the lower center. She looks at the viewer in distress as if she alone is aware of the imminent demise of the temple. This painting is from 1912.