Forgotten paintings by forgotten artists document changes in 19th Century Prague

The quay and the dockside in Karlin quarter, around 1850

Zapomenute obrazy Praha 19. stoleti ( Forgotten Pictures, 19th Century Prague) is the name of an exhibition currently running at the Museum of the City of Prague. Of the 180 paintings on show, almost half have never been exhibited before, while a number are by unknown artists. What's more, many of the works on display document parts of the Czech capital which today no longer exist. Zdenek Mika is the curator of the exhibition - he told us all about it.

"We were aware that there were many paintings in our collection that had never been exhibited, or had rarely been displayed. The artists were little known or even completely unknown. So we had the idea of mounting an exhibition of unknown pictures by unknown painters. Ninety percent comes from our own collection at the City of Prague Museum - the rest we borrowed.

"The exhibition partly shows the changes that occurred during the development of the city, the urbanisation of Prague during the 19th century. And of course some parts of the city disappeared at that time - they were knocked down, mainly at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when part of the Old Town was destroyed. For instance little remains of the Jewish Quarter, Josefov: just a couple of synagogues, the graveyard and a town hall. Also Prague had Baroque ramparts until the 1870s - their disappearance is another significant change."

"The documentary aspect of these paintings is more important than their artistic value, because they show us changes to Prague, and how it became a modern industrial metropolis.

"As for the paintings' providence, most are unsigned so we haven't succeeded in finding out who did them. But that doesn't take away from their appeal...We have two pictures here which are anonymous but at the same time their artistic value is probably the highest of all the works on show. The fact they're anonymous doesn't take away from their value or quality."

Forgotten Pictures, 19th Century Prague runs until the end of January at the City of Prague Museum, which is located by Florenc metro station.