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Lada Hubatová-Vacková

Vulcan's Engagement to Venus: Alois Studnička's Venture into the Applied Arts

For government representatives, industrialists and a certain segment of the intellectual elite of various countries in the 19th century, the competitive milieu of the market and comparison of production at world fairs signalled that the field of applied arts should be a high priority for the state. The ministries of education and trade were in favour of centralised artistic education for craftsmen and industrial designers and they were convinced of the need to cultivate the popular taste. With this aim in mind, a new artistic pedagogy was designed in England in the 1830s. Society was supposed to be educated systematically through two institutional bases: applied-art museums and a network of trade schools in applied arts and crafts. Looking at the case of Alois Studnička, the article describes specifically how and when the English impulses towards applied-art reform were received in the Bohemian Lands of the k.k. monarchy. Alois Studnička (1842-1928) was a teacher, and co-designer of educational programmes in the applied arts. He promoted education in the applied arts and crafts and was one of the first to draw attention to the qualities of Slavonic ornament. The article analyses three key themes: 1. the problematic stratification of the collections of the Czech Industrial Museum, which was supposed to be analogous to the South Kensington Museum in London; 2. the introduction of school curricula and the teaching methods of the new network of specialised craft schools in the Habsburg monarchy, and more specifically the Bohemian Lands; 3. the teaching of ornamental drawing and Studnička's contribution. Alois Studnička, who pursued a lifelong goal to promote education in the applied arts, wrote in 1883: 'One can best see what the ancient Greeks and Romans thought of artwork and how much they respected it in their myths. These instruct us that the homely, lame and hunchbacked blacksmith Vulcan, a Greek god, was engaged to Venus, the goddess of beauty, thereby suggesting that exalted beauty is joined to the products of the craftsman's trade.' In the early industrial era in the Bohemian Lands 'Vulcan's engagement to Venus' is clearly illustrated in Studnička's case.

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