Event


1024 Budapest, Keleti Károly u. 26.

Raoul Wallenberg – László Dombrovszky plaque project

​László Dombrovszky painted the sole reliable portrayal of Wallenberg – who sat for the artist personally – in his portrait dating to the time of the Holocaust in Hungary, in the Budapest of 1944. Today this portrait, donated by Wallenberg’s mother Maj von Dardel, hangs in the Swedish Royal Portrait Gallery in Gripsholm, near Stockholm.

László Dombrovszky painted the sole reliable portrayal of Wallenberg – who sat for the artist personally – in his portrait dating to the time of the Holocaust in Hungary, in the Budapest of 1944. Today this portrait, donated by Wallenberg’s mother Maj von Dardel, hangs in the Swedish Royal Portrait Gallery in Gripsholm, near Stockholm.

Dombrovszky’s skillful hands earned him a job as a colleague of Wallenberg’s in an operation producing letters of transit – the Schutzpass. Entries in Wallenberg’s notebook provided by the KGB show that he sought out Dombrovszky several times in the workshop in September of 1944.

It is rare to see posterity offer a memorial to the mere site at which a portrait was painted – a brief enterprise of a few hours, and no more than a momentary flash in the perspective of historical memory. Even so, this moment was a memorable encounter of circumstances, a flash in time that offers us lessons to this day. Both painter and model worked in the underground during these deadly months, and their meeting was no accident. The moment was both exceptional and absurd, since in 1944 both model and painter were involved in far more important matters than making a portrait. Yet despite it all here are two men, engaged in a dangerous conspiracy to save lives, now taking a brief time away from their war-scarred everyday life. The painter worked at his easel as if in peacetime.

The memorial plaque, 65 x 65cm in dimensions and 1cm thick, presents a simple contrast outline cut from stainless steel depicting three figures from the shoulders up: the painter, model, and the painting itself. The form of the plaque is a reference to one technique of illegal marking: the cut-out, or stencil, which an illegal artist might use to leave his mark in a matter of seconds. The plaque would be mounted at a height of 2 meters, and a distance of 20cm from the wall. There is to be a brief text, in Hungarian and Swedish, under the three figures:

In this building Raoul Wallenberg sat as a model in 1944 for the painter

László Dombrovszky, who painted his sole reliable portrait.

I detta hus satt Raoul Wallenberg 1944 modell för konstnären

László Dombrovszky som målade det enda existerande porträttet av honom.

The artist asked the designer Gábor Palotai, resident of Stockholm, to design the typography of the plaque. He has also recommended Esseltub, a Swedish typeface made for the Stockholm Underground system.

The artist envisions that this plaque, for symbolic reasons, shall be made in Sweden of Swedish steel. Those preparing it must be made aware of the story of the collaboration between Wallenberg and Dombrovszky. In this way, the plaque’s preparation will be not simply a technological process, but a narrative involving the participation of many.

Participating artists:

János Sugár (1958) studied in the Department of Sculpture at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. Parallel with his studies he was actively involved in the exhibitions and performances of Indigo, an interdisciplinary underground art  group. His work includes installations, performances, as well as film and video. Sugár  has participated in national and international exhibitions, in 1992 he exhibited at the documenta IX, Kassel, in 1996 Manifesta I, Rotterdam. His films were screened in 1998 at the Anthology Film Archives in New York. Since 1990, Sugár has been teaching art in the Intermedia Department of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts.

Gábor Palotai (1956) studied at the Hungarian Academy of Applied Arts, Budapest (M.A., 1980), he continued at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts (1981-82) and the Beckmans School of Design (1982-83) in Stockholm. In 1988 he established his own design studio in Stockholm. Gábor Palotai has won numerous awards like the Red Dot Design Award, Excellent Swedish Design prize, The Golden Egg Award (Best Swedish Design), The National Library’s Art Book Award, The German Design Prize nominations. He has works in the permanent collection of the National Museum in Stockholm.

gaborpalotai.com