"The father of Bohemian Baroque painting," Karel Skréta was a royal clerk's son; his first mentors were probably artists at Rudolf II's court. His Protestant family was expelled from Prague around 1627, and he visited Venice, Florence, and Bologna about three years later. Arriving in Rome around 1634, Skréta joined the northern European artists called the Schildersbent, or "Birds of a Feather," and befriended Joachim von Sandrart. In Rome Skréta discovered and absorbed the styles of numerous painters, including Nicolas Poussin, Simon Vouet, Pietro da Cortona, the Carracci, and Guido Reni. Rome brought his first renown as a portrait painter. Combining unforced dignity with warm humanity, his portraits remain his most significant works. Skréta returned to Prague in 1638 to reclaim the family property and soon became Prague's leading painter. Marrying his Italian experience with Prague's Mannerism for a style essentially realistic yet emotionally charged in execution, Skréta combined realism and monumentality. As a Catholic convert, he painted numerous religious pictures and cycles of saints' lives. He produced a large body of masterfully crafted drawings and also made prints.