Archiv des Autors: evachodejovska

Rezension | Landscape and Urbanism in Manuscript Plans from the 18th Century

Šárka Steinová / Filip Paulus: Krajina a urbanismus na rukopisných plánech z 18. století: translokační plány židovských obydlí v zemích Koruny české v letech 1727–1728 / Landscape and Urbanism in Manuscript Plans from the 18th Century: Translocation Plans of Jewish Settlements in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown from the Period of 1727–1728, Praha: Národní archiv 2020, 446 pp. ISBN 978-80-7469-088-4.

Eva Chodějovská (Brno)

On account of the translocation (i.e. segregation) rescript, between 1727 and 1728 a number of towns and villages in the Czech Lands were mapped, identifying Jewish settlements whilst taking into special consideration their proximity to Catholic churches. The legislation behind this formed but a part of a greater set of measures that the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI took against Jews, which eventually resulted in the Jewish segregation in the monarchy.

An attempt to identify the wide range of projection methods used to portray Jewish settlements is beyond the scope of the review and a mere description cannot match actually seeing the plans themselves. Suffice to say that the plans range from ground plans and ground plan bases with axonometric depictions of objects of interest to vedutas (a depiction of a landscape or cityscape from an oblique angle, using perspective projection); the collection includes simple sketches alongside with professional plans drawn by land surveyors.

The existence of these hand-drawn plans depicting Jewish settlements in the Czech Lands in the 18th century has been acknowledged in academic circles at least since 1931. In this year the Czech historical geographer Frantisek Roubik assembled a register of these plans depicting towns and villages in Bohemia, which was published both in Czech and German,1 supplemented with a few examples. Since then they received no more than scant attention, being used either as illustrations2 or for local topographical research and among Jewish studies scholars.3 Regarding the plans covering the region of Moravia, these were first systematically studied as late as 2007 by Ondřej Func, who compiled their register in his bachelor thesis, discussing them at length;4 the work was, however, not published. Lately Peter Barber5 called attention to this remarkable collection when examining several plans depicting Moravian towns and provided a list of localities mapped in Moravia within this time frame.

As far as the reviewed monograph is concerned, the first two chapters, written in collaboration with Ivana Ebelová, describe the broader cultural context behind these translocation plans in terms of the Jewish and Christian coexistence in the Czech Lands in the early modern period. The next chapter describes the administrative background in which the plans were drawn up, thus offering valuable contribution to the study of administrative history of the 18th century through the analysis of documents and decrees issued in regard to these plans and the description of local offices and their function. The following chapter is based on a database of the plans that the authors built up, identifying a set of criteria that would enable them to systematically analyse the plans (e.g. date of origin, author, technical parameters such as scale, dimensions, coordinates, orientation, choice of medium).6 Because the authors firmly adhere to the archival description standard, this particular chapter is less reader friendly, but it deserves merit for its passages on the plans’ authors and the material on which the plans were drawn up, in particular the sheets of paper on which watermarks were identified. The final chapter briefly discusses the urban layout of Jewish quarters based on their depiction in the plans.

The bulk of the book consists of the plans themselves. They are presented as a catalogue of 97 individual plans of locations in Bohemia and 61 in Moravia and Silesia, depicting settlements in 136 different villages and towns (occasionally one site was captured in various plans or one single sheet contains the schematic representations of more sites within the same region). Each individual plan is presented with a brief description and its current archival location. The complete plan is supplemented by an enlarged section representing the particular area inhabited by the Jewish population, a section from the cadastral map of the Franziscean (“Stable”) cadastre, and a modern aerial map. Thanks to this layout it is possible to instantly compare the changes that the depicted urban area underwent. However, the authors’ decision to use indicative sketches (Indikationsskizze) may pose problems from the methodological perspective. These maps contain a lot of information, but without a map legend they are confusing and it is hard to pinpoint indicative sketches in time. Rather than indicative sketches, Imperial Obligatory Imprints would serve the purpose better as they are comprehensible and clearly dated.

Besides the objection mentioned above, the book lacks critical evaluation of the plans from a historical cartographer’s perspective. These plans represent a truly unique group among cartographic depictions of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, so it seems appropriate to mention at least a few technical parameters, such as the maps’ scale and dimensions for each of them and set them into the cartographic context. Despite the remarkable variety of techniques used, their authors could have attempted to identify specific categories within the projection methods, evaluate types of generalisation or interpret map symbols used in the plans.

That being said, the book is worthy of praise in many other aspects. Foremost, it is its bilingual format: The English translations make the texts available to scholars who do not understand Czech. Moreover, the fruit of the authors’ labour is not limited to the book itself, but has been made available online through a web portal created by Steinová and Paulus in cooperation with the Research Institute of Geodesy, Topography and Cartography ( Last but not least, for the first time ever, high-quality reproductions of these plans were made available in a single monograph; the authors compiled material kept mainly in the National Archives in Prague and the Moravian Regional Archives in Brno, complemented with several items found in different archives. Still, it would seem that original set of these translocation plans was even larger; current research has revealed, for example, that a similar plan had existed for the town Kopidlno in eastern Bohemia. There are surely more of these plans that have been lost and thus the catalogue is not complete, yet still the work of Šárka Steinová and Filip Paulus significantly extends the knowledge on Jewish history, the Urban history of the Czech lands and the early modern period not only in the Czech Republic, but in all of Central Europe.

Printversion: Frühneuzeit-Info 31, 2020, S. 206 f.

  1. František Roubík: Die Judensiedlungen in Böhmen auf den Ortsplänen vom Jahre 1727, in: Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Cechoslovakischen Republik 3 (1931), S. 283–306; Idem: Plánky obcí v Čechách s vyznačením židovských obydlí z r. 1727, in: Časopis společnosti přátel starožitností českých v Praze 39 (1931), S. 49–68. []
  2. Recently e.g.: Akademický atlas českých dějin, Praha: Academia 2014, xxviii+559 S. ISBN 978-80-200-2182-3 (2nd edition 2016). []
  3. E.g. Jaroslav Klenovský: Plány separace židovského osídlení na Moravě z let 1727–28, in: Židé a Morava: sborník příspěvků přednesených na konferenci konané 8. listopadu 1995 v Kroměříži, Kroměříž 1996, S. 54–62. []
  4. Ondřej Frunc: Židovské ghetto na podkladech plánů z let 1727 (unpublished bachelor thesis, Masaryk University), Brno 2007. []
  5. Peter Barber: Mapping Prejudice. The Moravian Segregation Plans of 1727–1728, in: Journal of the International Map Collectors’ Society 160 (2020), March, S. 22–31. []
  6. Besides a few categories the authors deemed important, these are based on the categories required by the Basic Rules for Archival Description, i.e. the national standard for the cataloguing archival records in the Czech Republic (Základní pravidla pro zpracování archiválií, 2nd edition, Praha: Archivní správa Ministerstva vnitra 2015). []

Rezension | Aleš Veselý: Jan Antonín Venuto a jeho dílo/ Johann Anton Venuto and his Work

“Johann Anton Venuto and his Work in the Context of Landscape Painting and Vedutas in the Czech Lands at the Turn of the 19th Century”. A Very Special Exhibition and Catalogue as a Result of a Czech-Austrian Cooperation

Aleš Veselý: Jan Antonín Venuto a jeho dílo. Havlíčkův Brod: Galerie výtvarného umění, 2018, 328 pp., ISBN 978-80-906447-5-5.

Eva Chodějovská (Brno)

For decades, Johann Anton Venuto’s town views (vedutas), dating back to the turn of the 19th century, have been appreciated as important iconographical historical sources. His portraits of Bohemian and Moravian towns, castles and monasteries are even familiar to the general public as copies of them have been displayed in several castle exhibitions run by the National Heritage Institute of the Czech Republic (Národní památkový ústav) and in other public buildings.

Notwithstanding these facts, until 2018 only partial studies focusing on Venuto’s works from specific regions were available. Aleš Veselý, a curator at the Havlíčkův Brod Art Gallery, carried out systematic research and organised an exhibition in this East Bohemian town, which was opened on 8 September 2018. Since its ending (21 October 2018), it has continued as a travelling poster exhibition. Both the exhibition and catalogue were produced in Czech and German by the Havlíčkův Brod Art Gallery in collaboration with the Austrian National Library in Vienna.

Venuto’s family came from Italy but settled in Jevišovice in south-western Moravia. Johann Anton (1746–1833) started his career as a clergyman in the cultural and scientific centres of Moravia of the period: Olmütz (Olomouc) and Nikolsburg (Mikulov). As the newly discovered archival sources show, he was in close contact with other Moravian scholars, among them Franz Joseph Schwoy, with whom he collaborated on Topographische Schilderung des Markgrafthum Mähren. One of his friends, Johann Leopold Hay, became the bishop of Königgrätz (Hradec Králové) and invited Venuto to collaborate with him in 1785. Thanks to this invitation, Venuto not only joined a group of Bohemian Enlightenment-influenced scholars such as Josef Dobrovský and Gelasius Dobner, but also had the opportunity to join the bishop on his “visiting journeys” and sketch places in Eastern Bohemia.

Aleš Veselý carried out comprehensive research in dozens of GLAM-institutions in the Czech Republic and Austria, and managed to collect over 500 of Venuto’s works. The most important part of Venuto’s work is to be found in the Map Department of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. 398 watercolours were given to Emperor Franz I on the occasion of his visit to Königgrätz, and became part of the Habsburg-Lotharingen Fideikomissbibliothek. Here they were bound together in several volumes and forgotten. These volumes were only discovered in 1983. Slightly less numerous are Venuto’s sketchbooks, preserved in the Regional Museum in Vysoké Mýto and in Žleby Castle (Eastern Bohemia). This is the most important finding of the authors of the exhibition, as it opens new research perspectives regarding Venuto’s work. It enables an analysis of Venuto’s work process, an understanding of the places he selected, a reconstruction of his itineraries, and the identification of his sources and models, etc.

It is already clear that Venuto strove for topographical accuracy. I find Veselý’s opinion of Venuto’s work very apposite when he ranks Venuto alongside respected vedutists of the period (Anton Pucherna, Anton Karl Baltzer, Vojtěch Šembera, Vincenc Morstadt) because of his original work, while he also considers him to be a successor to Johann Joseph Dietzler and Friedrich Bernhard Werner because of his copies of their works. However, it does not seem he aimed at complex pictorial topographical work comparable with, for example, Franz Alexander Heber’s vedutas of Bohemian castles, he participated in several projects, seeking to publish a collection of important towns and castles in Bohemia described in words and images (Abbildungen sämtlicher alten und neuen Schlösser in Böhmen organised by Franz Karl Wolf, a series by Georg Döbler, etc.).

Although the information and hypotheses presented in the catalogue are based on archival research, there is still some room left for further analysis. For example, Venuto’s testament, a crucial source which may explain his activities in the latter phases of his life, has not yet been found. It will also be necessary to analyse Venuto’s activities as a cartographer more carefully than has been done in the catalogue, which mentions only two of Venuto’s maps (Moravia, 1784, and the Diocese of Königgrätz, 1792, pp. 326–328) and provides their reproductions without any contemporary cartographic context. The other critical note addresses the editorial work of this high-quality book. There are some contradictory statements in different chapters written by different authors (e.g. the date of the origin of Venuto’s map of Moravia mentioned in the chapter by Elisabeth Zelinger (1790, p. 33), while in his introduction (p. 16), Veselý brings new information and corrects the year (1792).

Despite these minor issues, the exhibition and bilingual catalogue organised by an important, albeit local gallery (!), represents the praiseworthy results from a systematic and expensive project that provides readers and visitors with systematically collected data on Venuto and his works, which also makes it an important insight into the lesser well known aspects of the Enlightenment culture of the Habsburg monarchy. Aleš Veselý and his colleagues have definitely managed to cross the frontier of the region.

Printversion: Frühneuzeit-Info 30, 2019, S. 201f.