The statue of Metal Worker is one of the last sculptural works by the important local sculptor Josef Škoda (1901–1949). A one meter high model of the statue was first exhibited in 1946
at the Man and Labor exhibi-tion in Prague. Later it was part of the exhibition of the history
of the revolutionary movement in the U Švagerků house, which was the headquarters
of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and is now in the collections of the Museum
of East Bohemia. The model differed in detail from the final sandstone sculpture, made after Škoda’s death in the workshops of the sculpture school in Hořice. Škoda’s model was distinguished by the far more elaborate drapery of the metal worker’s garment, which better represented the texture of the coarse, drawn fabric. Compared to the model, the sandstone sculpture has pockets on the overcoat, the hammer’s handle is thicker and the metal worker’s grip firmer, but Škoda’s model is more convincing in its representation of the work with
a hammer. The sandstone sculpture also has finer features, prominent cheekbones according to the period ideal of masculine beauty, and a neater hairstyle. For the sake of statics,
the sandstone sculpture has a pile in the background the metal worker leans on.
The art historian Lucie Rychnová states that “The Metal Worker” statue was commissioned by the Regional National Committee after Škoda’s death to fill the gap left by the removal of T. G. Masaryk’s statue in Velké říjnové revoluce náměstí Square” but this information could not be traced and verified in the cited archival source. The contemporary press implies that it was commissioned by Závody vítězného února (ZVU) company for the ceremonial area on its premises.
In the 1930s, Josef Škoda worked on challenging designs of sculptures and statues for public space and archi-tecture. In addition to sculptures representing figures of local and national history (Josef V. Pospíšil, Božena Němcová), he created allegories (the sculpture of the Elbe and Orlice River confluence) and worked on themes of labor, industry and transport.
He collaborated with the Rejchl brothers on the decoration of their architecture: he created reliefs for the National Bank of Czechoslovakia in Hradec Králové and allegorical figures of light-bearers on the railway station building. Creatively, Škoda concentrated on the realistic repre-sentation of the human figure, preferring slender figures in the case of nudes, even antique features and facial profiles in the case of light-bearers, and on the realistic modelling of clothing and historical costumes, which were not only to represent his creative skill, but also to convey the meaning and social and/or historical envi-ronment the depicted figures were situated in. The detailed and realistic treatment of the metal worker’s clothes is therefore quite characteristic of Škoda’s work, as evidenced, for example, by his sculptures of a tanner and
a tawer at the former tannery school from 1930. Škoda’s approach of depicting realistic and con-crete facial features and treatment of details of clothing and work tools is the opposite
of that of Václav Bí-lek, who created a number of architectural sculptures in Hradec Králové. Bílek’s figures are rather stylized and stiff and monumentalize the theme of the work.
The theme of work (whether manual, artisanal, business and managerial, represented by
the figures of various officials and directors) and its precise representation was characteristic of Škoda’s work, in contrast to the still widely promoted approaches of his contemporaries, who opted for allegories in representing work and trade. However, (also) since the sculptor had since died, his sculpture of the metal work was used after 1949 not only to represent labor but to commemorate and personify the ideals of the nationalization of crafts and industry and the Czechoslovak coup d’état in 1948 (the so-called Victorious February). It was unve
iled on 21 February 1959 during a workers’ rally commemorating eleven years since the coup at the Závody vítězného února (ZVU) company in Hradec Králové. The factory newspaper reported on the significance of the statue and its unveiling as follows: “Even our working collective has spoken its decisive word in these moments. The overwhelming majority of
s stood up against the subversive elements and spoke out for the unity of the peo-ple. That is why we are unveiling the statue of the metal worker today, as a symbol of our work and our struggle for the victory and power of the working class. May our metal worker always remind us of Victorious February and our victory. The music plays the Work Song. The white shroud slowly unbinds from the massive statue. Until at last the wind blows it away. The symbol of our work has been unveiled.” Workers’ rallies ex-pressing devotion to the ideals of the Victorious February, Czechoslovak-Soviet relations and the Soviet libera-tion of Czechoslovakia were held every year at the ZVU, and the procession led from the ČSA Street along Stalinova (today’s Karla IV), Chelčického and Hořická Streets and ended just in the area of the ZVU under the statue of the metal worker, where a lectern was also installed. For example, two years later, the Leningrad secretary of the local CPSU committee, Ivan V. Spiridonov, Soviet ambassador to the CPSU and Czechoslovak ambassador to the USSR, took part in
the demonstration. The contemporary press reported the events in the ZVU area under
the statue of the metal worker as follows: “an old comrade made his way through the crowd and embraced Comrade Spiridonov like a son. [...] The young metal worker Teplík talked
to the Soviet com-rades in Russian.” The ZVU workers were thus represented by a young metal worker who became a symbol of the whole enterprise in the 1950s and 1960s.