Count Khuen-Belasi

Count Khuen-Belasi occupies a special position in Mucha's life. He was Mucha's first patron from 1883 to 1889 and played a decisive role in the development of Mucha's early artistic career. Mucha met the Count in 1882/1883 at Mikulov, a South Moravian town on the border with Lower Austria. Mucha was then a struggling portrait artist, after losing his job as a scene painter in Vienna following a devastating fire. The Count employed Mucha to decorate his castle, Emmahof, and later the Khuen family seat, Gandegg Castle in Tyrol. These were the young artist’s first major commissions and laid foundations for Mucha's later large-scale projects such as the Bosnia-Herzegovina Pavilion for the 1900 Paris Exhibition. Furthermore, with the Count’s financial support, Mucha was able to receive formal art training in Munich and Paris. It was Khuen-Belasi who first introduced Mucha to Masonic ideas (he was to become a freemason in 1898). Mucha wrote later that the Count was a 'great moral authority' for him.

Despite the Count's importance in Mucha's life, until recently little was known about his identity (correct name) and relationship with Mucha beyond 1889, the year his sponsorship stopped abruptly. However, thanks to generous information provided by Count Conradin Khuen, the Count's great-grandson, we are now able to establish that Mucha's patron was Count Eduard Khuen-Belasi (1847-1896); that the Count's decision to stop funding in 1889 was intended to be 'a bitter medicine' to encourage the artist to be independent; and that Mucha's friendship with the Khuen-Belasi family continued until later years through Count Karl (1879-1963), Count Eduard's son and Count Conradin's grandfather. Entries in the
family guest book (right) reveal that Mucha visited Castle Gandegg in 1912 and 1925.