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Art in Slovenia

Master of the Velenje Panels - The Middle Ages and the 16th Century


The artist is named after these four altar panels, which were once in the chapel of Velenje Castle. We do not know where the artist worked. The style of the paintings would suggest that he was close to the master who painted the panel of The Circumcision of Christ (Aachen, Suermond Museum), while Stange suggests that he was an assistant of the Master of the Tucher Altar in Nuremberg and a pupil of the Master of the Munich Crucifixion. The Master of the Velenje Panels achieves neither the strong plasticity of the Tucher altar nor the realistic tones of the Aachen panel – his realism flows into expressivity and the composition is moulded into a pyramid which threatens to fall apart at the slightest touch (Mikuž). Characteristic of the artist is the realistic depiction of detail (e.g. the armour, the attire of the executioners), which is still in the manner of the second quarter of the 15th century, while the sharp folds of the clothing already herald the third quarter. A. Saliger also points out the typical figures and their arrangement. In them he sees the influence of the reliefs of the Master of the Znojmo Altar (Österreichische Galerie, Vienna), the setting of the figures in the centre of the composition reminds him of the triptych in the Spitalkirche in Bad Aussee (1449), and he suggests that the painter’s Crowning with Thorns is reminiscent of the Hours by Gysbrecht de Brederode of Utrecht. He defined the artist’s style as “a belated succession to the realistic rectangular style”.
Panels from the same altar, which come from the Franciscan monastery in Vienna, are kept in the Dom- und Diözesanmuseum in Vienna (The Crowning with Thorns, Christ Carrying the Cross).

Lit.: Stane Mikuž, Štiri gotske table v Narodni galeriji, ZUZ, XIII, 1936, pp. 9-14, figg. 33-36; E[milijan] C[evc] in: Zeri [& Rozman], 1983, pp. 48-50; Arthur Saliger, Der Meister der Tafeln von Velenje, Gotika v Sloveniji: Nastajanje kulturnega prostora med Alpami, Panonijo in Jadranom, Akti mednarodnega simpozija, Narodna galerija, 20. - 22. 10. 1994, Ljubljana 1996, pp. 273-278.
From the High Middle Ages to the Renaissance
In the High Middle Ages religious art prevailed that spread through the Slovenian lands first from monasteries and then from major regional centres, particularly, Gorizia, Villach and Ljubljana. Gothic art persisted even after the dawn of the Renaissance, but in the 16th century artistic production almost came to a standstill due to Turkish invasions, peasant uprisings and Protestantism which was averse to the fine arts. 

The leading position in Gothic painting belongs to frescoes. The collection presents a few examples of original fragments and several copies which illustrate the most frequent motifs, such as St Christopher, St George, the Procession and the Adoration of the Magi, etc., and a few special motifs, such as Sunday Christ and the Dance of Death. Along with numerous masters with provisional names we also know several artists by name and their idiosyncratic oeuvres, e.g. Johannes Aquila, Johannes de Laybaco, Master Bolfgang. Their production was part of the contemporary art scene in the sub-Alpine space, where from old times onwards stylistic influences of northern and southern countries had been intertwined. 

Numerous medieval sculpture workshops supplied reliefs and statues to churches for their altars. Crucified Christ, Madonna and Child, and Pietà rank among the characteristic religious motifs. The earliest sculptural pieces still demonstrate Romanesque vestiges, but the main body of exhibits are stylistically determined by the Gothic style which in some areas of Carniola, Styria and Carinthia lasted deep into the 16th century. The zenith of Gothic sculpture in Slovenia is represented by the works of the Ptujska gora sculpture workshop represented by The Beautiful Madona and the Pietà from Podsreda. To the period of the so-called late Gothic baroque style around 1500 belong the Virgin with ChildSt Catherine and St Magdalene from Avče, and the extraordinarily expressive Christ Crucified from Dramlje. Renaissance sculpture is represented by plaster casts of the Bishop Ravbar epitaph and two reliefs of St Andrew’s altar from Gornji Grad by Oswald Kittel.