Born in Prague on 27 January 1957, Jaroslav Róna is a sculptor, painter and performer belonging to the postmodern generation of the 1980s which has experienced the period of communism, its fall and transition to democracy. He was a member of the Tvrdohlaví (The Stubborn), a significant art group which participated in activities leading to liberation of the art scene from socialist demagogy. He has also worked as a theatre and film designer and participated in architectural work. The main focus of his work is creating sculptures for public space and painting. From 2005 to 2012 he taught the art of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. His most famous sculptures in public space are, among other things, the following: Franz Kafka Monument in Prague for which he received the Grand Prix of the Society of Czech Architects; the Red Giraffe in Prague; the equestrian statue of Jošt of Luxembourg in Brno, the Mythical Ship in Bratislava; and the Child from Mars on Mount Ještěd. Since 1985 he has exhibited in Bohemia and after 1989 also abroad. He has illustrated several books, including 1984 by George Orwell and The Citadel by Saint-Exupéry. He has published two books of his drawings and texts.
This sculpture has a remarkable story of origin. I was approached by the Prague district of Žižkov (which is very proud of its militant Hussite history) to design a statue for Parukářka hill towering over the district (it used to be an executioner's hill and stood behind the walls of Prague). Across entire Prague, this hill is competed only by one hill, namely the one where Prague Castle stands on.
As is well known, the Czech lands have a two-tailed lion in the coat of arms, just as Venice has a winged lion. During my visit to Vienna, I was thinking about the statue I should design for the hill and on the way to the Belvedere Palace I noticed beautiful baroque statues of lions and sphinxes lining the way up the hill in the park in front of the Viennese Belvedere.
Looking at the Baroque lions, I got an idea to place on Žižkov Hill a lioness that would be a symbolic partner of the Czech Lion placed on the opposite Prague’s Castle hill.
I liked the position of an upright sitting lion, leaning on its front legs, as I saw it in the beautiful stone lions guarding the Venetian Arsenal every year during my visit to the Biennale.
Originally, I intended to create a 5-meter-high lioness, using a technique of beaten copper sheet mounted on an iron-cast prefabricated structure. I wanted Žižkov Hill to gain a new sculptural landmark and attract visitors from all over the world, who visit mainly the central districts of Old Prague. While working on the model, I decided to use a supporting structure for the metal sheet as a supporting decorative element determining the entire artistic expression of the sculpture.
Due to political transfers in the Prague City Hall, this contract was cancelled. I created, however, a 210 cm-high model according to the small model, at least for myself, and I cast it in bronze, because the statue was not so impressive on a small scale.
When I was offered the opportunity to exhibit some statue in Venice, it seemed symbolic to me to that my Lioness would found herself in the city of the Lions that had partially contributed to its creation.