Mikuláš Medek (1926–1974)

The Meat of the Cross

Technique :acrylic on masonite


Signature:on the reverse

Dimensions:58 × 37 cm


starting price:‍60000 EUR

achieved price:‍177600 EUR

85th Auction, Lot 117


This mature work of cabinet art dimensions by one of our most progressive post-war authors belongs to the artist’s creative peak of the 1960s. At the end of the 1950s, Medek’s artistic expression began to turn away from scenes of grossly deformed predominantly female figures, full of brutal absurdities; his range of subject matters started changing towards more stylised scenes of decreasing descriptiveness and detail, and concluded in an entirely abstract rendering. The beginning of the 1960s was marked by the search for a new artistic language but also brand new inspirations, which is why in this period we encounter a number of subject matters that do not fit into classical sets or series. The Meat of the Cross is such a unique, as well as rare painting in the artist’s work, which reflects Medek’s transformation. Despite the fact that cabinet formats are quite sporadic in his work, they lack nothing of the artistic genius of larger canvases. Here, too, the artist’s inner mood, longing moments and depressive habits, which he literally carved into the drying colour layers, are exactly materialised. The inner strength of this work is based on the relation of horizontal and vertical axes – intertwining, but also sharply intersecting. The cruelty of the scene seems to be emphasised by Medek’s favourite element of red dots, contrasting with the cold blue that is fading in the dark depths of the background.

Medek gave the painting to one of his closest friends, the poet Jiří Kuběna (real name Jiří Paukert). The poet wrote on the stretcher of the painting: “This painting, The Meat of the Cross, was painted in June 1961 and donated to me at the same time by Mikuláš Medek. The image was not stretched, therefore in December 1963 it was relined and fixed, (and newly varnished), by the art restorer František Sysel, who also copied the inscription on the reverse. I donated the painting to my brother Dr. Zdeněk Paukert. Dr. Jiří Paukert, March 1, 1964.” Assessed during consultations by prof. J. Zemina and PhDr. E. Kosáková-Medková, art historian and the author’s daughter. From the attached expertise by PhDr. K. Srp, the author of the forthcoming monograph in which the painting will be included: “[…] The painting thus has double the value. On the one hand, it belongs to the works from the author’s peak period, when fights for abstract expression were fought. On the other hand, he presented it to the poet who stood closest to him throughout his life and never betrayed him. The painting shows that, even on smaller formats, Medek went to emotional extremes; that he was able to get literally below the surface of matter which he shaped in concrete shapes. […]”