Memorial plaque

Description of the commemorative plaque

The 65 x 65 cm commemorative plaque is 1.5 cm thick cut out from a stainless steel table to a simple, high-contrast design. Three figures can be seen from shoulder up: the painter, the model and the painting. The plaque refers to the cut-out template, i.e. the stencil technique, with which one can work very quickly, in no time. The plaque will be put about 2 meters high and 20 cm from the wall. Under the 3 figures a short text can be read in Hungarian and Swedish: “In this house sat Raoul Wallenberg as a model to the painter László Dombrovszky in 1944 painting of him the only authentic portrait.”

The typography of the text was made by Gábor Palotai, graphical artist the owner of the Stockholm Gábor Palotai Design Studio, choosing a Swedish font (Esseltub) to the work.

On the right bottom of the plaque a QR code is bitten leading to the website of the project.


Setting the plaque on the onetime studio’s wall we do not commemorate Raoul Wallenberg or Laszlo Dombrovszky. We remember by placing on the wall of the house of Keleti Károly Street No. 26 about the act of painting a portrait, about a relatively short process during some hours that, taking into consideration the time of history, is only a pure “flash”. Nevertheless this glint has even today valid lessons. The painter and his model met in the murderous atmosphere of Shoa. The moment is absurd and exceptional at the same time because in certain aspect the painter and his model were busy with much more important tasks in 1944 than making a certain portrait.

Moreover what they did, saving people condemned to death, is a moral duty to everybody. However the fact that during the frenzy war the artist paints the portrait of the saviour-diplomat has an exceptional importance. Hegel considered that the aim of the art is to improve, meliorate human moral, and spiritualize the material.

There are places where we remember the victims. There are people that we remember who tried to save the victims. The work of art of János Sugár, his commemorative plaque is very unique in the row of Wallenberg’s memorials because it does not emphasize the victims, does not call our attention to our humanitarian duty towards the victims, but it draws our attention to a birth of a work of art by means of commemorating the free human Spirit.


Memorial Plaques: Side Notes to the History of a City

During the past decades, disciplines such as social sciences, cultural studies and psychology have shown a growing interest in the study of both remembrance and memory. At the same time, besides the increasing academic attention, the notion of memory politics was also introduced in the sphere of politics, yet not solely as a political act; its social and cultural relevance is also evident. On the other hand, memory politics as the practice of designating the coordinates (who, whom/what, where, how) of remembrances is not a novelty: since the very existence of cities it has played a significant role in the definition of power (see the practices of Egyptian Pharaohs striving for the erasure of the memory of their predecessors), and latest from the second half of the 19th century, from the mass appearance of public statues, it is clear that these measures also have a serious effect regarding the urban space. Thus, a city along with its memorial signs becomes the imprint or even “document” (Donald J. Olsen) of its own history, it is turned into a “palimpsest” (Andreas Huyssen) where its fabric is rewritten again and again so that the act of remembrance will become an actual hunting for traces.

In this context, the memorial plaque – together with memorials, memorial stones and street names – is also part of the complex web of historical signs found in the public space. Unlike the others, however, memorial plaques are much more numerous: observant pedestrians can continuously read the “commentaries” (Martin Schönfeld) attached to spaces, streets and buildings. Memorial plaques that are typically placed on the facades of buildings are actual side-notes to the history of the city. They not only announce the results of an archaeological excavation, but they introduce the particular event and/or person into the present canon of memory. Thus, the inauguration of memorial signs is as much about the present as the past; while evoking one specific segment of history, they also give account of the political, social and aesthetic principles of the time they were realized. In this sense, there is a real responsibility lying on the present time that – while influencing the means of remembering and forgetting – makes decisions about re-presentations: about aesthetic/artistic depictions, but about historical self-image and identity as well.

Juli Székely