In 1912 Czech Art Nouveau and cubist architect Emil Kralíček designed the Cubist Lantern during the rebuilding of Adam’s Pharmacy, whose facade overlooks Wenceslas Square. The one of a kind street-lamp is hidden on the secluded corner of Jungmann Square. Indeed, it is hidden in the very heart of Prague, and many tourists unfairly overlook it while visiting Prague.
The architect chose his favourite style, creating a lantern column of artificial stone in the form of truncated pyramids with a geometric pattern, and the metal base was designed as a figure with cubic facets. Trying to meet investors’ demands to spruce up the area and come up with a lightening solution near the Gothic arch that leads to the garden behind the church of Our Lady of the Snows, Kralíček designed the sculpture that turned out to be completely different from traditional city lanterns made of massive cast iron.
The street-lamp became a symbol of the popular cubism movement in Prague. Czech Cubism was developed in the beginning of the 20th century. The main source of inspiration for the Czech Cubists was French Cubism, represented primarily in the works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Many young Czech artists of the early twentieth century learned the latest trends in painting and sculpture while traveling to Paris and drew inspiration for their own work from them.
Czech Cubism is a separate phenomenon and an independent artistic movement started around the 1910s. A characteristic feature of Czech Cubism, which distinguishes it in comparison to French Cubism among others, is the fact that its founders and leading figures were architects and sculptors, not painters. Aware of the epochal significance and innovativeness of the style created by Picasso and Braque, they sought to adapt it to all areas of artistic creation: sculpture, painting, applied art and architecture. Prague just happened to be the fortuitous city that welcomed the cubism movement and it’s citizens are fortunate to witness many cubist architecture locations throughout the city center.
Recently the nearly century-old cubist street-lamp visibly dilapidated and has lost its original appearance. Fortunately, it has recently been replaced by an exact replica of Kralicek’s work. Throughout the sculpture’s lifetime, only the two flower beds surrounding the lantern have changed in its appearance: they were replaced with paving stones in the 1980s.
Prague is a visual Great Encyclopedia of Architecture. But it has something that no other country in the world has. Yes, yes, Czech Cubism and the cubist street-lamp is a symbol of the movement and a hidden gem on the streets of Prague that is definitely worth seeing.
By Anastasia Linevich
August 12, 2021