Charles Crane

Mucha first met the American Charles Richard Crane (1858–1939) at a banquet held at Delmonico's in New York in 1904. Heir to a Chicago plumbing parts manufacturer, Crane was a wealthy and well-connected businessman and a recognised connoisseur of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In 1902, he invited Charles University Professor and future president of Czechoslovakia Thomas Masaryk to give a series of lectures at the University of Chicago. This initiated strong links between the United States and Slavonic political circles which were to prove instrumental in the foundation of the new Czechoslovak Republic.

Mucha and Crane met again a year later in Chicago. Mucha's son Jirí writes "Father was greatly struck by this American who understood the Slav problem so well, while Crane found most sympathetic my father's eccentric desire to work for his nation with no profit for himself".

In 1908 Mucha produced a portrait of Crane's recently married daughter, Josephine Crane Bradley, as the symbolic figure of Slavia. A portrait of his second daughter Frances Leatherbee was commissioned shortly after.

Mucha later approached Crane to discuss his Slav Epic project; he needed financial support in order to embark on his ambitious project and knew that, as an ardent supporter of Pan-Slavic nationalism, Crane may just be the sponsor he was looking for. His interest was indeed piqued, and after giving careful consideration to Mucha's budget and schedule, Crane agreed to not only finance the project, but to bequeath all twenty Slav Epic canvases to the City of Prague on the condition that they be housed in a purpose-built building.

By funding the Slav Epic, Charles Crane enabled Mucha to carry out his "life's work" and left a considerable gift to the Czechoslovak people. In 1918 Mucha expressed his gratitude by incorporating his portrait of Josephine Crane Bradley as Slavia in his design for the first Czechoslovak 100 koruna banknote.