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Frantisek Antoni Jelinek
Svudna
Oil on canvas : 74 X 56 cm
Signed and dated 1930
Sold at Gallery Kodl, Prague, 29/11/15
For 76.000 CSK (+ buyer’s premium) = 2.813 € (+ BP)

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Jelinek, Frantisek Antonin
"The dancing bear"
In short
 
Jelinek was born in the Austro-Hungarian empire in Prague. 
He painted this stunning painting at the age of 24 at the outbreak of the First World War inn 1914. It is as if our painter wanted to commemorate a social innocence and cohesion, which he knew was going to be lost soon. In the left foreground a mutilated soldier looks at us.
 
About Frantisek Antonin Jelinek
 
Czech painter
Prague 1890 – 1977 Kochanov
 
Son of a goldsmith and a seamstress.
 
Jelinek started painting at a young age. In 1906 he already passed the examinations to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, where he studied until 1911. In 1912 he studied during one year in Italy. 
 
Jelinek had been born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1918 the Czechoslovak Republic was crated, which lasted well after our painter’s death in 1977, for it was only split in 1983 in a Czech and in a Slovak Republic.
 
During World War I Jelinek moved to Kutna Hora, 70 km E. of Prague in Bohemia, and also to Eger in N. Hungary. By the end of the war he returned to Prague where he worked as a restorer.
 
After the First World War he moved to small villages, some 100 km SE of Prague. He had a nice house and garden in Kochanov, where he painted landscapes. He very regularly returned to Prague to paint portraits.
 
About our painting
 
Jelinek loved painting nude women and also flower still lifes and landscapes. It is all much too sweet, too languishing and without any interest what so ever. It is sad to see that such a promising young painter’s career must have been broken by the First World War. Our painting dates from 1914, that is from the starting year of the war. In the left foreground stands a mutilated soldier.
 
I must say that to me this is the only decent, interesting, modern painting that I have seen from Jelinek. This is a very early painting, Jelinek was only 24 when he painted it in Prague (Praha) at the breakout of the hostilities.
 
Strange how this view shows a forgotten world, a completely different society from ours, although it was painted just over 100 years ago. It almost stands closer to the 16th century world of Brueghel than to modern Europe. On the other hand gypsies with dancing bears can still be seen in Eastern Europe: in Ukraine, Poland, Albania and ex-Yugoslavia.
Here in our painting, itinerant gypsies have come to Prague, the capital of Bohemia, to the old part of town, with a dancing bear and a monkey (behind the musicians a man is indeed walking with a strapped animal). When parading the bear, the monkey would sit on its back. 
 
About gypsies
 
The Roma(ni) or Gypsies are a nomadic people who left NW India roughly 1500 years ago and arrived in Western Europe from the East in the 15th century. Although they were at first welcome in most countries and towns, this attitude changed rapidly and dramatically. Just as the Jews they were being stigmatized and criminalized. This was the start of a long history of accusations of bringing the plague, of spying for the Turks, of stealing and cheating. This resulted in discrimination, forced labour, persecution, abduction of their children, ethnic cleansing, deportation, expulsion and killing. 
 
During the 17th and 18th century the Romani were called 'Egyptians' or 'pagans'. The designation 'Egyptian' (hence 'gypsy') refers to the story that they had fled from Egypt after the Muslim conquest of the country during the 7th century AD.
 
Romani were active as musicians, fortune tellers, bear and horse trainers, dealers in herbs and medication, seasonal workers in the farms, metalworkers, etc. Some survived as beggars. They literally lived at the edge of society, in tents and huts, in regions where the vegetation and the conditions of the ground made it difficult for a central control.
 
Why were the Gypsies persecuted:

- because they had a dark skin, this in Christian society where a light skin referred to the angels, a dark one to the devils;

- because they were nomads and therefore outcasts;

- because of prejudices against their customs;

- because no one understood their language;

- because they had invented a story that they were the descendants of the Egyptians who had enslaved the Israelites and who therefore had been condemned by God to perpetual wandering;

- because through fortune telling and palmistry they competed with the priests to win the superstitious minds;

- because they worked outside the rigid system of the trade guilds.
 
Today some 12 million gypsies live in Eastern Europe.
 
Why should you buy this painting?
 
Because this painting, dating from the very start of the First World War, describes with a lot of compassion a lost world, a lost innocence, which one can also find in Pablo Picasso’s Rose period (1904 – 1906).
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