The fourth floor of the facade of the Residential Palace Jilska II facing the streets of Skorepka and Na Perstyne features figurative sgraffiti designed by Mikolas Ales (1852-1913), a frequent collaborator of Antonin Wiehl. The first sgraffito called „In the Service of the Community“ depicts an armored man carrying a shield with Prague’s coat of arms parting with his wife and a young lad holding his helmet. The second piece „Family Happiness“ evoking a domestic scene, features a woman with a spinning wheel, a woman making embroidery and a man standing at a writing pulpit. These images may have been inspired by the shared history of the two original gothic and renaissance houses of Jilska 2 and Jilska 4 that once belonged to two important Old Town mayors, M. F. Turek and J. V. Vejvoda.
Ales is considered to be the leading figure of the 19th-century art scene. This preeminent Czech painter, drawer and illustrator belonged among the key members of the so called National Theater generation. In 1879, Mikolas Ales together with Frantisek Zenisek participated in the competition to design the decorations for the foyer of the National Theater. Their project for four wall panels and the cycle called Motherland won.
In his early work, Ales was influenced by patriotic tendencies and drew upon romanticism, then dominating the Czech art. Later, Ales dedicated himself mainly to illustrations and worked for journals such as Kvety, Ruch, Svetozor, Zlata Praha and other. He was also interested in book designs and prints – his most notable illustrations include those for Jirasek’s Ancient Bohemiam Legends and Celakovsky’s Echoes of Russian Songs.
Many of his sgraffito were shown at the National Ethnographic Exhibition of 1895. In 1896, the first monograph devoted to Ales’s work was published by Manes Circle. Ales gained acclaim during his life, mainly as an illustrator and decorator. His oil paintings, however, were properly appreciated only later in the 20th century.
There are several houses in Prague built by famous architects such as Antonin Wiehl that feature decorative elements based on designs by Mikolas Ales. Besides Jilska II, there is the Rott’s House and Wiehl’s House on Wenceslas Square.