Monday, 21 June 2010

Šaloun's Villa

This extraordinary facade is the entrance to an even more extraordinary modernist villa built between 1908 and 1911 by Ladislav Šaloun (1870-1946), the Czech sculptor whose main claim to fame is the enormous memorial to Jan Hus in Prague's Old Town Square. He also created the bust for Dvořák's grave in the Vyšehrad cemetery due west of Vršovice.

The 'Šalounova Vila' is close to the home of the Čapek brothers, who were visitors here, as were other Czechs of international renown, such as the virtuoso violinist Jan Kubelík and his son the conductor Rafael Kubelík, along with the leading painter of the Art Nouveau movement, Alfons Mucha. All played a significant part in the artistic flowering which took place in Prague in the early part of the 20th century.

The inscription 'The Sea! the Sea!' refers to the words uttered by Xenophon's battle-weary ten thousand when, on their retreat from Persia, they finally glimpsed the shores of the Black Sea. What relevance the quotation had for Šaloun I don't know, though I guess most Czechs are relieved to see the sea at some time in their lives.

But whose is the mask-like head surmounting it all? Perhaps the waves of the hair are those of a presiding Poseidon - or could the grim features have something to do with the the story recounted by the writer Josef Vachal - that occult séances once took place in the cellar of the villa? All answers gratefully received.

The villa is now used as a teaching space for guest professors of the AVU (Academy of Fine Arts).


Boom Nisanart said...

It's beautiful !!!!!!

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