In Jaroslav Hašek’s novel, The Good Soldier Švejk two characters, Bretschneider and Palevic have the following conversation regarding the Emperor’s portrait:
Bretschneider said no more, but stared disappointedly round the empty bar.
"You used to have a picture of the Emperor hanging here," he began again presently, "just at the place where you've got a mirror now."
"Yes, that's right," replied Mr. Palivec, "it used to hang there and the flies left their trade-mark on it, so I put it away into the lumber room. You see, somebody might pass a remark about it and then there might be trouble. What use is it to me?"*
Not for the same reasoning, but Mór Than’s portraits of Franz Ferdinand and King Karl IV. received more or less the same credit before and after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Only the way of their removal was different. Since it symbolized the Monarchy, in some parts of the former Monarchy after the fall the portrait was quickly removed, left hanging, painted over (Novi Sad), sold (Târgu Mures) or carefully hidden (as at the University of Cluj-Napoca). When Bálint Hóman visited that university in 1940, he realised that the original portrait of Franz Ferdinand was once again hanging on the wall.
The Than portrait in the University Library was also removed in 1918/19, then after 1945, but this time it was only hidden behind curtains. In 1918 the library’s directorate issued a decree abolishing the use of royal titles and removing all portraits of King Charles IV and Franz Ferdinand. After the decree was passed, Zoltán Ferenczi asked the National Museum for a painting of a similar size, St. Genovese by István Delhaes, which arrived at the library in February 1919. However, it is doubtful whether this painting would have taken the place of the former royal portrait, as it was too large for the space on the wall (184.5*121.5 cm). In 1920, Ferenczi wrote a letter to the rector asking him to allow the painting of Franz Joseph to be replaced on the wall for aesthetic reasons. His request was guaranted. The portrait, which had been removed in November 1918, was returned to its rightful place on the 19th of April 1920.
*Translated by Lumír Nahodil and Cecil Parrott. Penguin Classics, 2015
Based on Edit Kazimír’s article