The Amateur Restoration of the Prague’s Astronomical Clock

The 15th-century astronomical clock is at the centre of an embarrassing row amid claims that an artist endowed it with likenesses of his friends and acquaintances in an expensive restoration project, possibly as a joke.

The unveiling of the reconstructed Old Town Clock took place in 2018 but it has only now come to light that the copy of Josef Mánes’ calendar, is a far cry from the original.

According to Milan Patka from the Club for Old Prague, some of the figures on the calendar have changed dramatically.

Now the artwork has been engulfed in controversy after a local heritage preservation group alleged that its painter, Stanislav Jirčík, had deviated from the spirit and detail of Mánes’ painting.

Discrepancies that initially passed unnoticed were belatedly brought to light after a member of the Club for Old Prague lodged a complaint with the Czech culture ministry, which has now launched an investigation.

In one depiction, intended to represent Virgo, the original of a girl with red hair and a distinctive ribbon is replaced with a middle-aged, modern-looking woman with grey or highlighted hair and an earring. In another instance, a smiling female Aquarius has been transformed into a man with short hair.

Photograph: Martin Frouz/City of Prague

Jiřčík also changes Mánes’ original painting of a predominantly black dog to one with a brown and white coat and raised tail.

A cademic painter and restorer, he was even said to have presented some figures with likenesses of his friends, including Kateřina Tučková, an award-winning Czech novelist.

Detail from the astronomical calendar shows the dog – now with a brown and white coat. Photograph: Martin Frouz/Prague City Hall


According to Deník N, which broke the story, the copy of the calendar has been criticized by restorers from the Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences and a complaint filed by the Club for Old Prague is now being looked into by the National Heritage Inspectorate of the Ministry of Culture.

The inspectorate has requested documents from Prague City Hall, which owns the astronomical clock, and has refused to comment on the case until it has arrived at some conclusion.

The author of the copy, Stanislav Jirčík, who alone could explain what happened, has so far refused to comment on the case.

Photo: Prague City Hall
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