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Family museum of postcards
House of „Red Chair“
Liliová Street 4, Prague 1
About the postcards
History of the postcard and postal card dates back to the 1870’s. In 1865, the chief of the Austrian Post Heinrich von Stephan suggested the introduction of the postal card, Prime Minister, Emanuel Herrmann, pushed this suggestion through in Vienna and the Austrian empire was the first country, where postal cards were introduced. The first postal cards were sent in 1869, Germany adopted the postal card the following year.
In 1870, the bookseller and printer Augustin Schwarz issued a postal card with a printed picture of a soldier and five years later he issued two series of postcards, which created a huge demand for those postcards.
In 1878 at the International postal conference in Paris the postcard was recognised officially. The first postcards had the address on the backside, whereas the picture and text were placed on the front side. Today those are called “long address” postcards and had been in use until 1905 when they were replaced by postcards in the current format, i.e. with the picture on the front side and the address and text on the back side.
The first postcards were printed by the method of lithography. The designer had to paint the mirror picture by an oily lithographical chalk on close-grained limestone. The space not covered by the design was covered by etchant, which filled the pores, whereas the oily surface was repugnant to etchant and took in the colour. The colour was then printed to the postcard paper in the press. In one-colour print the designer had to etch up to four stones to make suitable shades. For a colour print ten to twelve etching stones were required and every colour had to be printed separately. The resulting print was slightly grained and because of the demanding nature of the very production process, every postcard was in a way a work of art.
At the turn of the 19th century a less demanding and cheaper collotype started to be used. The printing surface consisted of chromium-plated gelatine, into which the toned negative developed in water was copied. The space soaked in water was repugnant to colour, whereas the parts of the surface stiffened (to various degrees) by light took in the colour. The collotype is similar to photography but in magnification one can see the typical worm-like grid.
The classical typography, i.e. printing in which the elevated parts of the board are printed onto the surface, was enhanced into so called chromotype, which was widely used in printing of genre and art postcards.
At the turn of the century, the firms Stengel and Co., Lederer and Popper introduced the print of relief postcards. Among them we can find postcards endowed with pieces of cloth, glass rubble, gilt objects or decorated with buttons or feathers.
The most sophisticated technique was that of photogravure. In printing of postcards, this technique started to be used at the turn of the century, however, it was widely adopted as late as in the 1930’s. The photogravure is always in several shades of one colour, often in brown, green or blue hue. Even in magnification it is hardly possible to perceive the grid.
After the WWI manually colorized photography prevailed. Photo postcards were colorized with the help of a mask through which the colour was sprayed or painted in paintbrush.
The 1930’s also mark the end of the golden age of postcards. It was at this time when the traditional techniques were replaced by the method of bromography, i.e. photochemical copying of the negative onto reel-to-reel photographical paper. The postcards printed in this way, however, could be toned only as a whole and the postcard as a small work of art virtually ceased to exist. The technique of bromography was in use till the 1960’s when the current offset method prevailed.
Do you know where you are?
In early Middle Ages the lane led through several scattered houses and churches. Later the flagged lane changed its name several times until it finally got its present-day name “Liliová”. In the Chronicles of Old Prague we can read that “…since the end of the 18th century the lane bears the present name, perhaps ironically, because as late as 1840 the lane had a very bad reputation for its dirtiness and criminality.”
The house no. 250/4 was from time immemorial called “At the Red Chair” or “At the Golden Chair”. In written documents it is first mentioned in 1403 as the residence of the Roudnický monastery provost. The city part achieved independence in 1498. The original Gothic house did not extend to the street as much as the present one, however, only the cellar and parts of the perimeter wall and the gate remained.
In 1516 the house was bought by a famous scribe named Bartoš. After retiring from his office, Bartoš made his living by copying books and documents. As he was a fiery Lutheran, however, he was for a period of time expelled from Prague. In this house he wrote a chronicle in the years 1524 to 1530, later published by a collector and poet K. J. Erben and described as a book “written in vivid style, widely read and copied”.
In the last quarter of the 16th century, a house, today no longer in existence, in close proximity to that “At the Red Chair” was inhabited by a famous dr. Kelly who together with his collaborator John Dee engaged in alchemy, as well as in conversations with the angels in Enochian language though crystals and brushed stones. The angels allegedly manifested themselves to Kelly even outside the crystals. In 1583, Kelly and Dee tried to attract the attention of the king, Emperor Rudolph II. Edward Kelly was killed in 1595 while trying to escape from the Prague prison.
The house at the Red Chair changed many owners and was re-built several times. The front building was erected during a Renaissance reconstruction, in the year of the battle at the White Mountain. In 1731, when the house was owned by Elizabeth Wisching, there was a small pub. In early Baroque, probably as early as 1726, a half of the courtyard was rebuilt and back porch added. The second floor was built as late as the second half of the 18th century. In 1822, the one store building in the courtyard and the back wing were built in 1885, originally as a one- store building.
In 1926, two more storeys were added to this wing when the first Prague elevator company Parvus, owned by the great grandfather of the present owners of the house, built the factory space of its production. The elevators produced in this house were renowned for its sophisticated mechanisms and the cabins were almost artistically made. They were used even in the Lány and Prague castles, in the latter there was a special round cabin made of precious plates of Caucasus walnut tree and rosewood, the ceiling was covered in saurian leather.
The street serves also as a location for one of many Prague legends, with many spectres and visions. This is the legend of the Templar from Liliová street.
There was a Templar monastery in Celetná Street. In this monastery lived a young knight who committed the grave crime, was condemned and decapitated. Either his crime was too grave or he died without absolution, nevertheless he could not find any rest. Every Friday he appears in a white Templar cloak with the red sign of the cross, his head in his hand. He sits on a huge white mount, whose nose is flashing with fire. The mount is restless, pulls at the reins and nervously dances on the cobbles of the Liliová Street just opposite the house At the Red Chair, so the sparks fly in every direction. The knight can be relieved only by a brave young man who will take the mount by the reins, will not stand back from the flames and in one stab will pierce the knight by his sword.