The Škoda Palace, located in Jungmannova street in Prague 1 and is currently the seat of the Prague Municipality, is an important late Cubist building built between 1925 – 1926. The building was built by Škoda Works manufacturer company. The company chose Pavel Janák, professor at the School of Applied Arts in Prague, as the main architect. Janák is also the author of the adjacent Adria Palace and the Pardubice crematorium. Part of Janák’s design for the newly built Škoda Palace was also a sculpture by the renowned sculptor Otto Gutfreund.
Otto Gutfreund was born in 1889 in Dvůr Králové. He studied at the School of Applied Arts in Prague and the Grande Chaumiere Academy in Paris. During World War I, he was a member of the Foreign Legion and was subsequently imprisoned in France for several years because of that. Following the war, Gutfreund returned to Czechoslovakia, where he later worked as a professor at his alma mater. During his life, he had numerous foreign exhibitions – his work is represented in the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. He is the author of Tomáš G. Masaryk’s sculpture in Hradec Králové and many other public space works.
The composition for the attic of the Škoda Palace in Prague (1925–1927) plays an essential role in the work of O. Gutfreund. After the end of the First World War, the sculptor was frequently commissioned for public contracts that required a rather decorative approach, which led the author away from the possibility of free expression. Working on the sculpture for Škoda Works gave Gutfreund an opportunity to break free from figurative civilism. The author chose a very innovative solution, drawing on his enthusiasm for machinery and aesthetics of machines using real objects.
If we study the development of composition designs for this sculpture, we can see how the author has gradually abandoned work with a figure, a worker, then an engineer, who merges with the machine. However, the constant element of all designs has always remained the Škoda Works logo in the central position of the composition. The final design, which was eventually realized, works with enlarged wheels from the real Škoda Works production. The main motif of the sculpture was lined with two elegantly curved beams.
The sculpture’s fate
The 1960s became fatal for this extraordinary work of art. The sculpture was removed for necessary renovation due to damaged material. Then, under unclear circumstances, it was accidentally taken to a scrapyard, from which it never came back.
CNT would like to make a replica of this important piece of art and return it to its original location. Negotiations are currently underway with the building owner to renew and refit the attic with this unique landmark.