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Art in Slovenia

The Middle Ages and the 16th Century

St Elizabeth
(1510/15), lime wood (polychromed), 79 x 25 x 19 cm

Parish Office Dravograd

The saint is depicted in a contrapposto: she is standing on her left leg, her right knee is slightly bent forward and her head is gently inclined to her left. She wears a red robe in the latest style, gathered below the bust and trimmed at the hem with a wide band of gold and silver; over this she wears a green cloak, fastened with a narrow ribbon above the bust and trimmed with the same gold and silver band as the dress. Her hair is covered by a headdress artfully crafted from ribbon fabric and ornamented with evenly spaced parallel red stripes; the ends fall in a slight curve from behind the nape of the neck over the left shoulder and down the right of the chest. St Elizabeth wears a crown indicating her royal lineage, as she was born the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary in 1207.

She holds an open book in her left hand, and with her right hand she lifts the robe up to her knees, revealing a light-coloured undergarment.

The sculpture is the work of a skilled carver who created a solid representation of the saint’s body, dressed in three layers of clothing, each with a distinct character of its own – taking into account Elizabeth’s posture, the cut of the clothes and the properties of the fabric. The sculpture has a subtle quality, emphasised by its silhouette, which is thinner at the top and bottom and slightly wider in the middle. A similar style is evident in works of the younger Villach workshop, which were found in many locations in Carinthia and also south of the Karavanke and Carnic Alps. The statue of St Elizabeth is comparable to the St Catherine from the openwork superstructure of the high altar in the Pilgrimage Church of St Wolfgang in Grades in the Metnitz valley and to the St Ulrich from the crowning of the winged retable (dated 1515) in the Church of the Holy Cross in Kojsko in Goriška Brda.

Provenance: succursal Church of St Mary Magdalene near Dravograd

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.