The building at the civic number 22 was projected by the Hungarian architect Emil Vidor (1867-1951).
Vidor was one of the most important secessionist architects from Hungarian Szecesszió. In Budapest, in 1903, he designed a very interesting building, an apartment house in Honved útca 3.
In that palota, Vidor designed a sort of heterogeneous styled contruction in which he joined decorative elements, without any function other than aesthetic effectiveness, with a general very linear design of the entire house’s structure. Even the facade display ample decorative elements such as gold insertion, ceramic plates and beautiful colored window panes. Essential forms and catching eye aesthetics are very well combined in this green building in Honved útca, not far by the architecture style of many other Austrian secessionist buildings.
This kind of combination between heterogeneous styled elements is even more evident in thebuilding in Nepszinhaz útca.
As the other in Honved útca, green was the colour of choice by Vidor for the general structure of the house. The building is larger compared to the other one from 1903, with its four stages. The rounded lines of the facade design evoke the essential lines of the Honved buildings. Can be noticed the fact that at the time he designed the building in Nepszinhaz útca, Vidor was influenced by the particular wiener secession tendency, such as the taste for geometric simplicity pursued by the well known architect and theorist Adolf Loos. But here, the pure aesthetic element is not constituted by decorative geometrical gold or ceramic elements, as for Honved utca house. On the contrary, the building here is very evident because of its particular decorated frieze, realized with the technique of the mosaic: the author is illustrator and decorator Andor Dudits.
The mosaic’s frieze display a complex scene divided into three distinct parts, with a central dramatic figure. The building designed by Vidor once served as a beer manufacturing company, and, of course the chosen characters are in accordance with the message addressed to beer’s customers. That beer was supposed to be either a good quality product for the most exigent drinkers, either a cheap drink for the everyday customer: in other word, either an an aristocratic even popular beer.
The illustrator Dudits decided to use an Arcadian like representation. In those years, around 1908, the Hungarian illustrator developed a radical change of his style, with a sensibler attitude toward nature, marking a radical change of his art.
In fact, the Hungarian artist began his career studying in the most relevant cities as far the history of turn of the century art,Vienna, Paris and München. In the french capital city, Dudits was influenced by some of the current tendencies like the habit to paint in the very middle of the represented scene (the so called painting en plein air). Eventually, he was able to learn the plain-air painting techniques, including the so called realism. In other words, the painter had to develop a sensibility that let him be inspired totally by the surrounding environment (mainly naturalistic ), let alone, as far was possible, his own inner feelings.
After Paris, he felt the influence of the well-know Hungarian painter Munkákcsy, who suggested him keep in touch with the artistic circles at München, Bayern, the German capital of the so called jugendstil. There Dudits became a member of the circle of artists connected with the baron Pereira, having the opportunity to learn new, for him, tempera techniques. However, Dudits could not feel himself really satisfied even as a member of Pereira circle, and soon he decided to leave that brotherhood, returning in Hungary.
The crucial date in the artistic development of Dudits was year 1908. In that period, in fact, he left definitively the very elaborated, heavy and somewhat baroque style he had learned in Paris. Perhaps influenced by the artistic experimentations active in those years in Hungary.
In particular, he regarded at the works of Aladar Korosfoi-Kriesch and his brotherhood in Gödöllő community, who, at that time, studied the ancient archaic styles typical of the Transylvania country architecture. Dudits was very influenced by those studies, and the style he used composing the beer building mosaic was close to those originally developed in Gödöllő (very close, of example, to the style of some of the paintings by Korosfoi-Kriesch such as The Fountain of art in the Budapest Academy of Music, or the so called cycle of Klara, nowadays conserved in the Hungarian National Gallery).
Looking back to the Dudits’s mosaic, its central figure represents a royal character over a very special chariot, which consisted of beer barrels. The main character is, really, a very particular king. The figure,in fact, was painted in accordance with the widely accepted iconography of
king Gambrinus, the mythical inventor of the beer and protector of the art of brewery. That legend presents Gambrinus receiving the instructions and the ingredients to brew beer directly from the hands of the egyptian goddess Isis. Isis was the goddess par excellence of mysteries, a goddess who strongly protect the secrets she knew1: even the figure of the king riding a couple of barrels is somewhat identical to a scene regarding the legendary tales of doctor Johan Faust.
The scene thus displays both symbolic and mystic elements, bundled together with the classicism of the king’s hieratic figure. The face of Gambrinus himself remains unveiled, just because his sight is directed to a sort of superior highness. It seems that the king is about to receive the right directions from the goddess Isis, maybe to underline the fact that not only the beer is an invention of the highest spirits, but also that the king is hearing continuously at the goddess directions in order to improve the beer’s quality every day. So, Gambrinus becomes a metaphoric way to underline the continuous effort done by the beer producer in order to improve the quality of their beer. Nothing can be considered acquired once and forever,even beer.
The other two parts of the frieze are disposed to create a sort of frame around the king’s central figure. Moreover, the movement of all the characters, and also the shape of the frieze, form a very impressive idea of movement toward the royal chariot. And the scenes of the two lateral part of the mosaic too, are illustrated in accordance to the new naturalistic sensibilities of the author.
The left mosaic side male characters are inciting a very curious mix of animals. In particular, a horse, styled in neoclassical manner, displays the same muscular tension as the others two horses ridden by Gambrinus. And the general neoclassical cites are confirmed by other elements such as four dogs, surprisingly similar to those painted in some masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance2, and two human figure near those animals, too, dressed similarly to characters of a typical Italian Renaissance’s Court. On the contrary, other characters, maybe in the role of the hunters, are semi nude, in a similar way one can imagine the members of the tribes who populated the Hungarians lands before the King Arpad, the founder of the Hungarian State.
Dudits here reaches a sort of convergence of several heterogeneous elements, such as the royal highness of Gambrinus, who cohabits the flow of the people, their variety of clothes and attitudes, and the domestic animals joined with Savannah’s beasts (dogs and giraffes ride the same natural landscape in this Dudits vision). Following the Latin motto “coincidentia oppositorum”3 Dudits wanted give the spectator not only the message about the beer, as noticed; he wanted too, using symbolic figures, represent the radical transformations which were about to transform the Hungarian art in that era, mainly thought a deeper interest toward the older national traditions4.
Even the right and last part of the frieze show a characteristic Arcadian scene, regarding in particular agricultural lifestyle. Dudits there painted typical shepardy animals such as lambs, shepards and even a giant cow. Let alone beasts, the main character of the right part is, no doubt, the female figure. She is dressed like a Greek goddess or, maybe, like a pagan priestess, a figure charged with a very interesting symbolism. She is holding what appear to be grain in her left hand. It is well known that the grain itself is a symbol for the fertility of the ground and, consequently, of the female goddess of the Great Mother, the goddess of the fertility of the earth and, by extension, of every female part of the nature, including womens of course. The grain is the main symbol of the Egyptian goddess Isis too, because of the goddess power to generate a new life.
The wide use of symbolism in this mosaic, and in several works of the Hungarian secession, is not only related to renovated interests for national mythology (in particular the quest for the roots og Hungarian people, mainly related to the Huns and the Finnish myths, as for example the Kalevala sagas) but also with some other esoteric and mystical symbolism (as the case of Isis, for example), often derived by austrian secession and/or German jugendstil traditions.
Very close to the Dudits attitude toward symbolism was the one of the cited Gödöllő community or Gödöllő Workshop. It was an artistic colony, founded by some influencing Hungarian artists such as Korosfoi-Kriesch Aladar, Nagy Sandor, who had a relevant impact on the development of an autonomous Hungarian secessionist style. Was mainly their studies of the ancient national traditions and symbols that deeply influenced the Hungarian secession (not only in paintings, but also in applied art, with manufacturing such as tapestry, glass shaping, internals decoration, et al.). Eventually, the colony artists organized into business activity, with the incorporation of the Gödöllő Workshop, having the austrian Wiener Werkstaette as a corporate model). Strong influences of their work are evident in several artistic production in that era, specially, as far as this article is concerned, in iconography5.