Antonín Langweil was born in 1791, the ninth child in the family of a brewer in the Schwarzenberg brewery in Postoloprty, North Bohemia. Unfortunately, his father soon died and the family moved to Český Krumlov. It was here that Antonín studied at a special business school, which was set up by the noble Schwarzenberg family for the talented sons of their employees. Much of the technical proficiency that Langweil attained at this school was later put to use in the creation of his unusual works. After leaving school he worked as a town-hall clerk in Český Krumlov while devoting time to his creative pursuits – he painted miniature portraits and experimented with the new graphic technique of lithography. He was the first person in the Czech lands to open a lithographic workshop in Prague in1818. In 1822 he obtained the position of librarian in the University Library in Klementinum along with a tied apartment. He remained loyal to this work to the end of his life.
Unacheived artistic ambition forced Langweil to continue searching for certain forms of creative self-realisation. He exhibited small works in exhibitions at Prague Academy of Art and in 1826 he began work on his long-standing dream, to portray the city of Prague in a small model. As a ground plan he used Jüttner’s topographical map of Prague, which was published in printed form at the time. The scale of the model is 1:480. Langweil exhibited the ongoing model to the public several times and gained the reputation of a dedicated eccentric whose curious creation was worth seeing. He did not complete the model and died on 11th June 1837 at the age of only 46.
After a pleading letter from Langweil’s widow the model was bought for the National Museum in 1840 by Emperor Ferdinand V. The model was then put on display for the first time since Langweil’s death in 1862 in Old Town Hall. In the years that followed the model was exhibited by the museum only occasionally at the time of St. John’s fair and St. Vaclav’s fair. Not until 1891 was the model put on display for a longer period at the time of the National Jubilee Exhibition and, after this finished, from 1905 as part of a National Museum Lapidary exhibition in the Exhibiton Centre.
After WWII the model was taken into the care of Prague City Museum. After making it accessible in this museum in 1961, within the 19th Century Prague exhibition, Langweil’s model became a real discovery and tourist attraction for Prague residents and visitors. Simultaneously, from 1962, the model underwent thorough specialist restoration by Academic Artists Jana and Jiří Boudovi. From 1970 the restored model was exhibited in a large glass cabinet. In 1999 this was replaced by a new cabinet which was tailor-made for Langweil’s model. In this the extraordinarily valuable exhibit is kept in safety, in an optimal microclimate.