Worth to know about the ELTE University Library. On the almost lost sgraffito on the frontispiece in the Reáltanoda Street

In his letter to the Finance Office (16.07.1930) he wrote that there were problems in the cooperation with the firm of Böhm and KállaySgraffito, (Italian: “scratched”), in the visual arts, a technique used in painting, pottery, and glass, which consists of putting down a preliminary surface, covering it with another, and then scratching the superficial layer in such a way that the pattern or shape that emerges is of the lower colour. (From britannica.com)

This technic was used on the library’s interior and exterior wall surfaces. The technique chosen by Antal Szkalnitzky and Henrik Koch (who was Szkalnitzky's brother-in-law and business partner) was endangered from the beginning.

One of the sources of this danger was the makeover of the building issued by Pasteiner in 1928-30. The internal façade, the lobby, the staircase and the reading room were renovated. The furbishing of the inner wall’s daub meant the renovation of the sgraffitos on the frontispiece facing the Ferenciek tere and the ornamental elements under the dome. The sgraffitos facing the Reáltanoda were in very bad state and had to be rebuilt in large parts. The officially entrusted person with this work was the art teacher and artist Antal Megyer(i)-Meyer. In his letter to the Finance Office (16.07.1930) he wrote that there were problems in the cooperation with the firm of Böhm and Kállay: the two parties could not agree about the monetary and workforce questions related to the construction.

Among these strained relations came dr. Gyula Szentivánéji, secretary of the National Committee of Monuments who thought the university library will destroy the sgraffitos. He protested against this and said that the library building is one of the most beautiful buildings in the capital, thus it should be renovated to its former glory.

Meanwhile the relation between the company and Meyer had completely deteriorated, the latter even stepped down and the firm wanted to give his job to János Schwarcz who previously worked on Medika Menza Budapest (9th district, Erkel Street) and the university’s Faculty of Humanities building. The change was finally approved.

The sgraffito case was also furiously debated in the public, Dezső Hütl, professor of architecture at the University of Technology, and the head of the university's curator, Emil Wiesner quickly informed Pasteiner that they would not allow the sgraffito plastering project.

The library called upon the contractor to prepare a new budget and reassured the National Committee of Monuments about the fate of the sgraffiti. Underlining that they are even willing to import rare foreign materials if necessary for the work. The final budget was 4 400 pence, but as the library did not have that much money, the final decision was to leave the sgraffiti in their current state.

Based on Edit Kazimír's article