Tucked away behind an unassuming gateway on Karmelitská street in Malá Strana is one of the hidden gems of Prague: the baroque garden constructed for Jan Josef Count of Vrtba, considered to be among the finest of its type in Europe.
Designed between 1715 and 1720 by František Maxmilián Kaňka, the garden climbs in steep terraces to a viewpoint looking out over the castle hill, Malá Strana, and the New Town. The original layout is not fully known: today’s arrangement of box, yew, and avenues of hornbeam is an approximation of what would have been seen here in the 1700s.
As well as being supreme burgrave of Prague Castle – a prestigious post similar to that of chancellor – Vrtba was also a patron of the arts, to whom Vivaldi dedicated three lute sonatas (RV 82, 85 and 93). Paintings by the celebrated fresco-maker Václav Vavřinec Reiner decorate the sala terrena which links the gardens to Vrtba’s palace.
Halfway up the slope, the middle terrace is retained by an impressive wall and staircase, and it is here that the designer allowed himself full rein, adding classical urns and statuary by his collaborator, the celebrated sculptor Matthias Bernhard Braun.
Matthias Bernhard Braun: Mercury (copy)
Matthias Bernhard Braun: Diana (copy)