Prague is known as the City of A Hundred Spires for its medieval architecture. It is also a city of art and history. The Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square with its moving figures that include the Apostles and Death striking the time dates back to 1410, and the Charles Bridge with a stone tower at each end and twenty statues of Apostles and the Crucifixion lining the two sides started construction in 1357. But one of the most arresting works of art in the city is tucked away on a small street at the corner of theater, Il Commendator.
Il Commendator is artist Anna Chromy’s tribute to Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Mosart’s opera about a womanizer lacking a moral compass who descends into hell moved Chromy so much as a child that she created the concept of the Cloak of Conscience in 1980. In 1990 a Cloak in bronze, symbolizing the Commendatore, found its place in front of the Estates Theatre where Mozart directed the world premiere of Don Giovanni in autumn 1787. Happy with the installation of her work many others followed. Chromy dreamed of creating the Commendatore as “Guest of Stone” and her dream came true in 2010 with the completion of the large Cloak in pristine white marble from the famous Michelangelo quarry in Carrara.
On a gray afternoon my wife and I walked from the memorial of Jan Palach who set himself on fire protesting the Communist government in 1969 to a neighborhood of narrow streets–Havelska, Kotcich and Rytirska–where vendors line their carts selling jewelry, tee shirts, vegetables, liquor, art, and an assortment of treats in cannabis wrappers. It was raining as we approached Estates Theater and from across the street the silhouette of the bronze cloak was like the gravitational pull. The harrowing sculpture arrests the imagination and invites, no demands, you to look closer at its chilling emptiness. Look too close and risk being pulled into the depths of hell with Giovanni.