MUCHA, Alphonse (1860-1939). Illuminated manuscript on vellum granting an honourary doctorate in law to Archduke Carl Franz Josef of Austria at the Carolina Ferdinandea University of Bohemia. Prague: 6 March 1916.
2° (445 x 360mm). 4 leaves, written on rectos only, the first with greeting in the name of Emperor Franz Josef I in gold, blue, red and black inks with an elaborate decoration of female allegories, with two coats-of-arms and a seated figure between flowers and an owl at the foot in watercolour and bodycolour heighted with gold, signed 'Mucha' (lower right), the second leaf with 30 lines of text in red, gold and black ink, with 9-line illuminated initial, with decorated upper and inner border with an allegory for justice and a soldier with varicolour foliate scrolls, the third leaf giving the recipient's full name and titles in gold and black with large illuminated initial, the final leaf with the doctorate with large initial signed by the university rector and two other officials, all within strapwork borders, interleaved with beige moire silk liners. (Slight wear to silk at extremities.) Original maroon silk boards, the upper cover applied with a silver centrepiece of the crowned initials of the recipient set with red and pale green stones, within a leaf and berry wreath with floral and foliate scrolls, both covers with leaf and bud cornerpieces applied with green stones and shaped clasps for the ties, probably designed by the artist, with circular silver seal-case of a female bust with two candles (upper hinge cracked).
A FINE ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT BY MUCHA GRANTING AN HONOURARY DOCTORATE TO THE FUTURE KARL I OF AUSTRIA. Decorated in typical style, Mucha has illuminated this manuscript with similar figures from his book illustrations of the period, with elements from his 'Slavic epic' and other spiritual works. As painter, poster and jewellery designer, illustrator, he had created a sensation with his designs for Sarah Bernhardt in 1895-96, and became a leading designer for the 'Belle Epoque'.
Karl I of Austria (1887-1922) inherited the thrones of Austria and Hungary on the death of his uncle, Franz Josef I, in 1916. In 1911 he married Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, and with the outbreak of war served in the army in Italy and later on the Russian front. On succeeding to the throne he tried to mitigate the suffering of his nations because of the war, and tried to negotiate peace with France. On the fall of the monarchy Karl lived in Switzerland, and in 1921 tried to regain the trone of Hungary. After two failures he was exiled to Madeira where he died.