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Art in Slovenia

The Middle Ages and the 16th Century

Procession and Adoration of the Magi (King and Courtier)
(c. 1410/20), fresco, 89 x 150 cm

NG S 1261a, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

The two longitudinal walls of the nave in the Vrzdenec church were newly painted around 1410/20; the paintings reproduced the content of the older layer of paintings. In 1925, the Monuments Office took adecision to remove the later painting layer in order to present the earlier layer from the first half of the 14th century, considered more valuable due to its rarity in Slovenia. The National Gallery of Slovenia holds several of the painting fragments removed from the Vrzdenek church, two of which were part of the composition Procession and Adoration of the Magi.

The kings are dressed in looser, fashionable garments with heavily ruffled sleeves. Their faces, rendered in colour, are mostly elongated, with the exception of one figure with round cheeks. Their lips are gracefully accentuated; beards are trimmed in a fashionable (French fork) style and the hairstyles are also carefully arranged – the royal ones with plenty of draught elements, while the others, of an older type, are colour-modelled and enhanced with bright strands. 

The features of the images betray the authorship of the painter, who painted in the branch church of St Lenart in Breg near Preddvor. He was assisted in his work at Vrzdenec by an even more conservative painter, as is evident from the older type of hairy border (consisting of eight-pointed stars and squares) on other fragments; nevertheless, the younger layer of paintings in the nave at Vrzdenec is already distinguished by the features of the Bohemian incarnation of the International Soft Style (hairstyles, beards, clothing).

Vrzdenec near Horjul, succursal Church of St Cantianus

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.