Ancient Czech Republic’s Family Is Selling NFTs To Cover Conservation Costs
Using NFTs and the metaverse, a 27-year-old prince from the Czech Republic aims to preserve his family’s 700-year-old castles and art collections.
The six-century-old Bohemian Lobkowicz family is smashing together the world of ancient arts with a form of digital art or NFT fund raising. It is hoped their collection of NFTs will finance the restoration of their ancient castles and the family’s extensive and controversial collections of rare artworks.
What are NFTs and Why Is A Czech Family Selling Them?
Firstly, the family in question, the Lobkowicz family, are described as Bohemian. However, in this context the family are not followers of unconventional musical, artistic, literary, or spiritual lifestyles. And neither are they wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. Quite the opposite. This is a noble family from Bohemia, the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech Republic.
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Before we get to the guts of this story, we should clear up what exactly a “non-fungible token” or “NFT” is. When all the hype and mystery is stripped away an NFT is a new form of art currency, consisting of digital data stored in a blockchain, which itself is a sort of distributed ledger. One’s ownership of an NFT, say in the form of an electronic logo, is recorded in the blockchain and it can only be transferred by the owner.
Now, the Czech Republic's Lobkowicz family are set to auction a heap of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) based on their family artworks at the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague next month.
This X-ray of a painting titled David with the Head of Goliath was sold by the Lobkowicz family as an NFT for 25 ethers or 27,767 dollars or 27,238 euros. (House of Lobkowicz)
All Fur Coat And No Knickers
It would be inaccurate to think that everyone who lives in a castle is wealthy because all over Europe there are crumbling medieval fortresses in which the modern owners can’t afford to light the fires at night. “All fur coats and no knickers” my grandfather used to say! But this is not only because accrued family riches have been spent, but because the cost of castle upkeep, including its artifacts, can cost millions a year. The Lobkowicz family fall into this latter category.
A report on CNBC says the Lobkowicz family “lost everything to the Nazis and Communists.” It was after the fall of communism in the 1990s that the family finally reclaimed their stolen castles and artworks.
William Rudolf Lobkowicz is a 27-year-old prince born in Boston and raised in the Czech Republic. He recently told the media that his family will now showcase some of its most valuable arts that are “in desperate need of restoration.”
Selling Restricted National Cultural Treasures, Online
When the family reacquired their ancestral castles in the 1990s, they also received “20,000 stolen artifacts.” A report in NDTV says these looted treasures included “hand-annotated manuscripts by Mozart and Beethoven and works by works by Bruegel, Canaletto, and Velázquez.”
One particular “Lobkowicz NFT” is an animation showing the “degradation and restoration of a panel of scrafitto of Hercules” that currently hangs on a wall of the family’s Nelahozeves Castle. This is among the finest of Bohemia's Renaissance castles located above the Vltava River, 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) from Prague.
The corner of the Czech Republic’s 16th-century-AD Nelahozeves Castle, which belongs to the Czech family selling NFTs. This castle is a three-winged Renaissance chateau, featuring elaborate sgraffito designs that depict scenes from Greek mythology and the Old Testament. (The Lobowitz Collections)
While the family officially own the 20,000 artworks and artifacts, they are also “national cultural treasures.” This restricts the Lobkowicz from selling them abroad without the government's permission. Hence, the Lobkowicz family has so far financed restorations with the admission fees of around 100,000 people a year who visit the palace to see their collections.
But with their income stream having stopped during the Covid-10 lockdowns the family innovatively began offering digital tours of the collection every Sunday. This attracted about 130,000 last year and the family went so far as to conduct “virtual yoga classes in some of the castle's historical places,” according to reports.
From Yoga To NFTs
In one year the Lobkowicz family has gone from selling ancient forms of Buddhist exercise and meditation to offering electronic blockchain NFT art works. Several artists' works based on the family collection will now be sold as NFTs and the artists will scoop 50% of the sales, while the other half funds the restoration of the neediest artifacts in the family collection.
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Lobkowicz says the family are exploring this new type of fundraising so that they “stay around for another 600 years.” And speaking with CNBC he said he believes NFTs are “a new frontier.”
The planned NFT sales event, called Non-Fungible Castle, however, is not for you or me. And neither is it for any of the other poor people from the village! This elite experience and shopping event is “invitation-only” and costs 400 euros (408 dollars) to attend, and none of these ticket buyers will be saying “NF-whats?”
Top image: William Rudolf Lobkowicz on a visit to the family’s Non-Fungible Castle in the Czech Republic, where family NFTs or non-fungible tokens or digital artworks are made and sold to raise funds to preserve 600 years of Lobkowicz history, art and architecture. Source: The Lobkowicz Collections
By Ashley Cowie