It is said that whoever touches the finger of Johann Wolfgang Kempelen’s statue receives an idea that can change the lives of people. At least that is what the legend claims, which has come to light only a few months since the unveiling of the statue of this great scholar and inventor in the garden of the Waterworks Museum in Bratislava.
“Kempelen was the Leonardo da Vinci of Bratislava; he was an artist, a designer, and a polyglot,” said Andrej Aleksiev, chairman of the FabrikArt civic association, on why they decided to remind citizens and visitors of Bratislava of this 18th century inventor, designer and thinker.
Today only a street in Bratislava’s borough of Karlová Ves recalls the prominent native of then Pressburg. In the past a street in the Old Town close to the place where he used to live bore his name. In 1945 this street was renamed Klemensova and has retained this name until today.
The life-size bronze statue of J. W. Kempelen is the first statue of this great thinker and inventor in Slovakia. Its creator, sculptor Robert Czingel, was inspired by the personality and topics to which Kempelen devoted his life.
“We chose a conservative approach,” said Czingel. “so that the final sculpture would not be about its creator but about Kempelen and his ideas.”
The result is a realistic statue of Kempelen, contemplating over the chess figures of the rook and the queen at his feet.
“They refer to Empress Maria Theresa and Bratislava Castle,” Czingel explained for the TA3 news channel.
A plaque in front of the statue recalls that Kempelen invented an ingenious system of pumps to supply Bratislava Castle with water, designed fountains and irrigation facilities as well as drainage systems for mines.
Czingel is glad he was able to participate in this project.
“Bratislava has a number of notable people about whom only very few talk about and about whom the general public knows only very little, if at all,” said Czingel. “Kempelen is just one of them. When we look to neighbouring countries, Bratislava is lagging behind in this respect.”
Originally, they wanted the statue on the Danube embankment in the Old Town, where already several figures from Slovakia’s history have statues. But they did not obtain the consent of the Bratislava city council. Since Kempelen was closely associated with technical waterworks, they addressed the Waterworks Museum. Here they were met with a welcoming attitude.
“Kempelen’s inventions and their benefits for Bratislava were also connected with the use of water resources and the distribution of water to previously inaccessible places, such as Bratislava Castle,” said Zsolt Lukáč, general director of the utility company Bratislava Water Company, during the ceremonial unveiling of the statue in mid-December. The utility company is the administrator of the museum. “It is therefore natural that the idea of creating a statue of J. W. Kempelen appealed to us and we supported this initiative with pleasure.”