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Maxmillian Appeltauer, Decorated cave

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About the Artist/Site

The small community of Satov in the Czech Republic, with some 1200 inhabitants, is located in a wine growing region. In this area, as in other wine-growing regions across Europe, caves are often dug into the ground so that they can be used as wine-storage depositories, thanks to the relatively constant temperature and humidity within. In Satov, however, a large subterranean cave was dug with the intention of serving as a recreational bar rather than, as with most other such caves, as a storage facility. This cave, some 12 meters (39 feet) below ground, includes a main corridor approximately 25 meters (82 feet) long, as well as five smaller side hallways.

During the 1930s, the owner of the cave agreed to let Maxmillian Appeltauer decorate the walls on the interior of the cave. Appeltauer, born in Austria, but working and living in Satov, painted his first fresco on one of the subterranean walls during one of his free Sundays in 1934, and he continued painting each Sunday for over thirty years, only interrupted during the war years as he was drafted into the army. A self-taught artist, Appeltauer’s works reflect a naïve, folkloristic style. He covered the sandstone walls with landscapes, cityscapes, depictions of historical events, and well-known characters from myth and legend (like Adam and Eve), all set against a background of colored walls decorated with geometric patterns or other motifs.

Electricity was not connected to the cave until 1965, so until then Appeltauer painted by the light of candles attached to his hat. Moreover, during the war he had been wounded and lost control of one arm. Notwithstanding this disability, he continued his project until the late sixties, ultimately finishing it in 1968. He died four years later, in 1972.

The cave, now owned by a local wine company (www.malovany-sklep.cz), is used for private parties and is open for visits by the public during the summer months.

~Henk van Es



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