Vojtěch (Adalbert) Lanna Jr. (1836–1909) was the most illustrious member of his family that had arrived in Bohemia from Upper Austria in the 18th century. His father, Vojtěch Lanna Sr. (1805–1866) was one of the founders of Czech industry, he was a businessman in the lumber trade, transport construction, river regulation and railway building. Through the expansion of these activities, Lanna Jr. gradually established one of the most important construction companies in Austria-Hungary. He engaged in the construction and improvement of most of the principal, still-existing, railway lines and watercourses. The company’s headquarters were located in the Lanna Palace on Hybernská Street in Prague, where the family lived. Lanna’s successful entrepreneurship is also imprinted in the two stately villas that Vojtěch Lanna used mostly for relaxation. The first edifice was built in nearby Bubeneč, the second one in Gmunden, Austria.
Lanna invested a considerable portion of the huge profits in extensive philanthropic activities and the support of public institutions. His meritorious pursuits were acknowledged not only by the high esteem in which he was generally held but also by his ennoblement and appointment to many distinguished posts. For instance, Vojtěch Lanna Jr. was appointed a life peer in the House of Lords of the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Council.
Vojtěch Lanna was one of the founders of this museum. His interest in the creation of a museum devoted to the applied arts was based on his passion for art collecting and his concern with the improvement of the cultural and economic situation in Bohemia. Still before the official establishment of the Museum of Decorative Art in 1885, Lanna, who was a seasoned art connoisseur, had arranged the purchase of many exhibits for the evolving museum collections. Especially in the initial years of the young institution, loans from his private collection formed the nucleus of the emerging permanent collection. For decades, he held the post of chairman of the museum’s administration committee and was an advisor to and colleague of the institution’s first directors, namely Karel Chytil and František Borovský. Frequently, Vojtěch Lanna negotiated the purchase of whole collections that he had visited during his travels around Europe. Every year, he donated dozens of objects to the museum. After the museum had expanded and moved from the Prague Rudolfinum to its own building, he loaned in 1905 his collections for exhibition that filled four rooms of the new building’s second floor. The peak of his patronage was his gift of more than one thousand pieces of rare historic glass – a generous gesture with which Vojtěch Lanna celebrated his seventieth birthday in 1906.