17/08/2022

1791 Prague CZ – Waarenkabinet

Forward to 1798, Paris FR – Exposition Publique des Produits de l’Industrie française (1st)
Back to 1790, London UK – RA Exhibition (22nd)
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August-September 1791 – exhibitors no data – visitors (Czech-only) no data

The Geneva and Hamburg Products in Industry events were organised on quite a small scale. As a result, many claim that it was the 1791 Prague event, the Waarenkabinet (Industrial Exhibition) that was the first true industrial exhibition.

This event was retrospectively recognised, somewhat arbitrarily, by the Bureau International des Expositions (‘BIE’) as having been the first World Fair. (The BIE was not formed until 22 Nov 1928, today 170 member-countries have signed up to the BIE Convention.)

The event was held at the summer refectory of the Klementium, the Clementine Jesuit College, in Prague. At one time this was the third largest Jesuit college in the world, today it hosts the National Library of the Czech Republic. There was also a number of purpose-built pavilions

Clementium east entrance and baroque library hall (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The event’s intention was to strengthen Czech identity, to display the state of industry, agriculture and culture in Bohemia and Moravia, raise the status of Bohemia and Prague as Czech, thus part of its
national movement to break with the Habsburgs. Its catalogue sought to recover the spirit of Czech national arts, and re-publicise authentic Czech traditions and heritage.

Exhibitors were Czech manufacturers from within forty-nine sectors – encompassing textile samples, knitted buttons and lace, the works of Czech goldsmiths and jewellers, to glassware and mirrors.

Given the above paragraph, we should ask whether this truly a World Fair? It referred to itself as a ‘collection of goods’ rather than an ‘exhibition’. Its Czech-only exhibitor profile is at odds with the BIE acclaim. Perhaps its visitor profile might justify this, but visitor data was not found.

Johann Schönfeld (1750-1821)

Johann Ferdinand Ritter von Schönfeld, reputedly the son of the Prague imperial book printer, became the most important Czech printer, publisher, bookseller and paper manufacturer. Schönfeld was particularly well known for his technological museum (the first private museum in Prague) and his aristocratic archive. Part of his collection was displayed at the Klementium.

King Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor

This industrial exhibition was held to coincide with the coronation of King Leopold II in 1791 in Prague, then part of Bohemia, and within the Habsburg monarchy. Prague was at the time ‘German’ soil. Leopold was the Holy Roman Emperor, the king of Bohemia, Croatia, Germany and Hungary (among many other territories), the Grand Prince of Transylvania and the Archduke of Austria (his complete title ran to well over 100 words).

The Estates of Bohemia commissioned Mozart to compose an opera for the event. He completed ‘La clemenza di Tito’, in just eighty days – just as well he did it quickly because he had died by December.

Leopold and his wife, Maria Luisa of Spain, ceremonially visited the event. Leopold was an absolute monarch at a time when this notion was already becoming unpopular in Europe. His sister Marie Antoinette, wife to Louis XVI of France, was tried and guillotined two years after this event. But by then Leopold had died suddenly, the suddenness leading some to suggest that he was poisoned.

Academy of Fine Arts, Prague

The exhibition’s legacy is that it prompted the foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague by Imperial Decree on 10 Sep 1799.

1891 Prague Centennial Site Plan

King Joseph II had refused to be crowned as the Czech king, so a century later in 1891, a General Land Centennial Exhibition was held (15 May – 18 Oct) in Prague, claiming a 2,500,000 visitor attendance. Its focus on Czech identity was still a key feature. But, many potential German exhibitors boycotted it, so once again the claim of ‘General’ might be queried. Certainly the BIE has not recognised it.

Forward to 1798, Paris FR – Exposition Publique des Produits de l’Industrie française (1st)
Back to 1790, London UK – RA Exhibition (22nd)
Back to Getting Noticed – Back to bobdenton.com home

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