PRAGUE (Yuriy Shechuck, 1990)


This picture represents the city of Prague. It was created by Yuriy Shechuck, whose oeuvre has been developed between the last quarter of the 20th century till the current days of 21st century, that is to say that we are on speaking terms of recent art.

Prague is the capital of the central eastern European country of Czech Republic and the most important city of Bohemia Region, nestling just in its centre. 1.3 million inhabitant live within its 492 km2 area. The city is influenced by two types of climates: oceanic climate and humid continental climate. It is also influenced by the different heights that Prague has, being the highest peak 400 meters high and the lowest 177 meters. What’s more, in 1992 the historic centre of Prague became UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Although the area of Prague has been inhabited since around year 200 BC first by Celts, Prague did not gain relevance up till the 10th century when it became the dwell of the Dukes, later the Kings, of Bohemia. From 1346 onwards Prague was already considered as the most important city of the region and its economic development was unstoppable, even though the city was hit by plagues and wars. The importance of Prague comes from its location on the map, strategically settled in the centre of Europe, which made Prague an important trade point in the continent. Since 14th century, Prague, in terms of political, economic and cultural issues, has been the main city in the country.

From the Middle Ages, Prague owns an irregular urban layout conditioned by the topography and delimitated by both riverbeds of Vltava river. It is remarkable that Prague is very fragmented. Within the municipality boundaries, the city centre is the most constant, from there; it is seemed that little settlements lie around it, separated by large forests.

The Vltaba river splits the city in two parts, Stare Mesto and Malá Strana. This painting portrays the core area of Prague, Stare Mesto (Old Town). During the 11th century the inhabitants that lived around the the Castle began to expand to the East of river Vltava by building up this neighbourhood. Nowadays Stare Mesto hosts the highest affluence of tourists.

Squares, houses and churches constitute the major medieval area of Prague. In this zone it is set up Old Town Square being a crucial point of public life in the Middle Ages where some buildings such as Tyn Church and Old Town hall overshadow. Tyn Church was built in the XIV century. It is an incredible Gothic style church which has two sharps towers pointing at the skies of Prague. Mixed among houses and narrow alleys of the city centre, this church is the major Gothic symbol of Prague with a large history amid its walls. The church has 52-metres long and 28-metres width though the most important details are the two 80-metres high towers.

The Old Town Hall of the Old Town Square is one of the main attractions situated in Prague due to the location on one of its sides of the Astronomical Clock of Prague. This building, used as Town Hall up till the end of XVIII century, overshadows by its impressive 60 metres high Gothic tower where offers us an incredible view of all city centre. The Astronomical Clock of Prague is the most famous medieval clock around the world built in 1490.

Charles Bridge, the most famous monument in Prague, communicates Old Town with Malá Strana. The Powder Tower is a black Gothic construction just situated at the entry of Stare Mesto. Also, it can be found the Municipal House, considered the most prominent Art Nouveau buildings in Prague and Clementium that is the second biggest architectural complex in Prague. We also find Saint Nicholas Church of Mala Strana, considered as the most beautiful Baroque construction of Prague. It started to be built in 1673 by Jesuit order, being the school and the parochial building the first to be finished. Even though in 1752 the works had ended, masses began to be officiated in 1711. In the access square to the Church there is the Plague Column with the Saint Trinity Statue. It was built by Alliprandi in 1752.

Apart from the old town we find others significant neighbourhoods such as Hradcany area, Nove Mesto and the Jewish neighbourhood.

Several architectural styles are throughout the city of Prague. Around 13th century stone buildings began to be constructed and one century afterwards Gothic style started being the most predominant in the city creating the charming atmosphere of Prague. Baroque is common in the current city. The Renaissance style based on classic aesthetic makes Prague to look different because of the magnificent appearance of some of its buildings. French Classicism has been very influenced by the Czech style. At the beginning of 20th century a new epoch was born best known as Modernism which can be found in some buildings throughout Prague.

As a conclusion, Prague dazzles with its historic and cultural richness even hide in the most little details, which make Prague deserving of being visited if we want to experience a time journey through nearly 8 centuries of History.

Paula Calvo Pinto


PRAGUE (Braun & Hogenberg, 1573-1578)


In the picture, a copper engraving and later handcolored made by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg between 1572 and 1578, we could see the city of Prague in the late XVI century. Prague is the capital of Czech Republic and also of Bohemia, and it is situated in central Europe. The city is located in a meander of the Moldava River near the point it reaches the Elba River. In the right bottom part of the image is observable the transporting of logs by water. As the Moldava River is navigable, it was an important trade spot between the Slavic world and Western Europe, and served as a crossroad for several trade routes.

Concerning its urban structure, the engraving shows three main areas. On the top of the hill is situated the Prague Castle and the cathedral. This positioning is reminiscent of ancient Greek cities, in which you could observe the separation between the areas of worship and the ones where the inhabitants live. Under the castle, the others two areas have an irregular layout from the Middle Ages. The one on the left is the old quarter, also called Malá Strana. One can appreciate easily the clustered distribution of the houses surrounding a big square. The part on the right is called Old City or Stare Mesto. We could also see the city walls around. Related to the style of buildings, the majority of them are Gothic.

Connecting the two parts of the city we can observe Charles Bridge, made of big stones and built between the XIV and XV centuries. The measures are a bit more than 500 meters length and 10 width. It is named after his creator, Emperor Charles IV, who put the first stone in 1357 to replace Judith Bridge, another one destroyed by floods.

Inside Malá Strana we could appreciate some architectural ensembles. The biggest and most important one is the Prague Castle, which stand out in the background of the picture, in a strategic position from which you can see the whole city. Inside the castle is located Saint Vito’s Cathedral, a Gothic temple that started being built in the XIV century. It is obvious that the religion and the real family were very important in that period of time because of the location of those buildings. Another beautiful site is Saint Nicholas Church, a Baroque construction well known as a consequence of its very big dome easily observable from the top of the city.

On the right side of the river, the Old City, is located the main square of Prague called Old City Square. This area is the focal point of Prague nowadays. In that place one can notice the marvelous Astronomical Clock, a part of the city hall. It was made in XV century. In that square is situated another important Gothic building, Tyn Church. Another remarkable place to take into account is the Powder Tower, built in 1475. It is a blackened tower that was one of the old entrances to the city. It is important to mention that at the top part of that area is located the Jewish Quarter, where there are six synagogues distributed over that district.

We should mention that the biggest expansion of the city took place between XII and XIII centuries because of the political and economic prosperity, so that is the reason why most of the monuments and buildings are Gothic. Then, during the XIV century under Charles IV, Prague enjoyed its heyday. The king erected the Bishop’s Palace in 1344 and constructed the university four years later. It was one of the most important cities in Europe, and a consequence of it was that the great European artists moved there, especially Italians. The decline of the city started with the Counter Reformation and with the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). However, it recovered a little in the XVII century, when the Baroque style flourished.

To conclude, we want to highlight that instead of the World War 2 or the URSS’s debris, nowadays Prague is one of the most visited cities all over the world because of his importance both historically and artistically. We are sure it will continue because the only way to realize the beauty and the magnificence of that place is seeing it in person.

Álvaro Rodríguez López


PRAGA (José Luis Suárez, siglo XX)

La ciudad de Praga es la protagonista de este óleo sobre lienzo del pintor malagueño José Luis Suarez. Esta ciudad se encuentra emplazada a la orilla del río Moldava y separa el casco urbano en dos mitades. En uno de sus lados está la Ciudad Vieja y en el otro lado, que es la parte que podemos ver nosotros, se encuentra la Ciudad Pequeña, también llamada Malá Strana.

Praga es un claro ejemplo de ciudad que con el paso del tiempo ha tenido que ir extendiéndose en ambas orillas del río por falta de espacio. En la imagen podemos ver el río Moldava, que ha  jugado un papel muy importante a lo largo de su historia, fundamentalmente en relación al comercio, pues un río navegable es una fuente de riqueza para una ciudad. Desde antiguo, las ciudades se solían asentar cerca de los ríos, igual que sucede en este caso. Por este motivo y por la riqueza que se encuentra asociada al agua, en la Edad Media se utilizó el río Moldava para transportar madera de los bosques del sur. 

El nexo de unión entre ambas ciudades es el puente, conocido como Puente Carlos, ya que fue el rey Carlos IV quien lo mandó construir en 1357. Su obra finalizó en el siglo XV. Este puente mide 516 m de largo y 10 m de ancho y fue realizado con grandes bloques de piedra, que descansan sobre 16 arcos. Sobre sus pilares descansan grandes esculturas que lo decoran durante todo su recorrido. Esta decoración escultórica, y las farolas intercaladas, otorgan al puente un carácter muy monumental. Las esculturas son un total de 30, de temática religiosa. La primera que se colocó fue la de San Juan Nepomuceno, en 1683. Se trata de un puente muy sólido, ya que el río Moldava tiene un importante caudal y sus crecidas son numerosas durante los meses de invierno.            

En la pintura podemos ver cómo la ciudad pequeña de Malá Strana fue emplazada sobre una pequeña colina, posiblemente buscando una situación estratégica, tanto para su defensa como para resaltar en el punto más alto el Castillo de Praga. En este lugar tiene un especial protagonismo la Catedral de San Vito, la mayor muestra de arte gótico de la ciudad, cuya primera piedra fue colocada el 21 de noviembre de 1344. Dentro del complejo del Castillo se aprecian otros edificios significativos, como el Convento de San Jorge, la Basílica de San Jorge y el Palacio Real, todos ellos conectados por diferentes patios y pequeñas calles. Con respecto a la situación privilegiada del castillo podemos deducir el peso y la importancia que tanto la Iglesia como la familia real tuvieron en aquellos momentos, no solo por los edificios, sino por su situación dominante en el punto más alto, desde donde se podía divisar toda la ciudad.  

Contemplando la imgen podemos deducir que el plano urbano es  irregular, rasgo típico medieval. En torno al recinto del castillo fueron creciendo calles asimétricas, que dieron cabida a edificios civiles y otras iglesias de menor tamaño. También destaca la vegetación que se intercala entre las diferentes construcciones.     

Como conclusión, tras analizar la obra, podemos destacar la importancia que ha tenido la ciudad de Praga a lo largo de la historia. Esta pintura es un fiel reflejo es la monumentalidad de sus edificios.

Ramón Quindós Sánchez