House of the Black Madonna

A cubist pearl in the heart of the Old Town of Prague...

At the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Prague is engulfed in a battle to determine the shape of the historic city. Hundreds of centuries-old historic buildings were razed to the ground and in their place, new average apartment blocks were built. The House of the Black Madonna became a unique attempt to reconcile old and new. Its author, the young architect Josef Gočár, decided to take full advantage of the creative freedom afforded by Cubism, which Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque had created in France, shortly before.

The basis of the unique Cubist architecture of the house were its sharp geometric shapes which made it possible to build and merge onto the plastic Baroque facades of neighbouring historic houses, using fairly modern methods. Thanks to a set of subtle references, such as its dynamic entrance portal or its mansard roof, the house has been incorporated into the surroundings as though it had always been there.

On the first floor is the Grand Café Orient, which was the first consistently Cubist interior in Prague. In its Cubist shape, the café only lasted a decade. The idea to restore the café only came up during a general reconstruction of the building in the 1990s. Thanks to a meticulous reconstruction, using historical plans and photographs, the quality of the new interior has to be admired even a hundred years after this outstanding building was created.

The building got its name from the Baroque Black Madonna statuette (hidden behind the golden grating) which was moved there in 1912.

Old Town

Today, the House of the Black Madonna is entirely dedicated to the phenomenon of Czech Cubism, which is presented as part of an exceptionally high-quality exhibition from the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.

Vendula, Avantgarde Prague
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