Mucha's "Byzantine Brunette"

Bronze Belt Buckle After Alfons Mucha's "Byzantine Brunette" (LEO Design)

Alfons Maria Mucha was born in 1860 in Moravia—then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now part of the Czech Republic. He is a giant amongst artists of the Art Nouveau Movement.  Although he was a fine arts painter, he is most recognized for his graphic arts which were perfectly suited to the new technology of modern, high-volume lithographic printing. Fine art posters, theatrical flyers, consumer packaging and advertising campaigns were all graced with Alfons Mucha's beautiful images (giving him tremendous popular exposure). Many of his works were portraits of women, presented in Byzantine dress and accessories. They were usually surrounded by swirls of hair, art nouveau botanicals, and Byzantine decorative motifs—all part of Mucha's drive to recognize and promote a distinct Slavic culture. Mucha believed that the Byzantine culture formed the root of Slavic culture, and he often incorporated into his works (stylized) Byzantine elements from Late Antiquity or the Medieval Period. The artist was also alarmed by the detrimental impact of outside empires and influences which were diluting a unique Slavic National culture.

In the second half of his career, Mucha devoted 18 years of his life to creating his masterwork: a cycle of twenty monumental canvases titled The Slav Epic. He gave the works to the Nation on the Tenth Anniversary of Czech independence (in 1928).  Although they have been displayed in the past, the paintings are currently in-storage awaiting a suitable presentation venue.

The bronze buckle shown above, made during the Rock & Roll Art Nouveau Revival of the 1970's, captures Mucha's "Byzantine Brunette" (from 1897).  The painting was half of a diptych, alongside her companion, the "Byzantine Blonde." Click on the photo above to learn more about her.


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