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Art in Slovenia

The Middle Ages and the 16th Century

St George Slaying the Dragon
(c. 1420), tempera, canvas, 175 x 174 cm

NG S 1497, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

The painting of St George on a white horse thrusting a spear into the dragon’s throat is located on the nave side of the north section of the triumphal arch wall; in the background, on the right, we see a small praying figure of Marjetica (Princess Sabra), while her parents, the king and queen, are watching on from castle windows.

All the figures are foregrounded; the space is rendered schematically, without depth. The architecture with sparsely rendered perspective functions as a theatrical backdrop. St George is fashionably attired: the drapery folds are soft, the edges are elegantly undulated. The oval face with almond-shaped eyes and heart-shaped lips is rendered through masterful tonal modelling; it is surrounded by neat curly hair with bright gradients.

The wall painting at Breg near Preddvor is the work of the third group of masters from the succession of the so-called Gorizia workshop, which was active in the territory of Slovenia; among their other works are the fragments in the nave of the church in nearby Tupaliče and the paintings on the façade of the Church of the Holy Cross above Selca. The workshop, which was probably based in Gorizia, was still cultivating some of the stylistic innovations of the Italian Trecento art, although its masters were also flirting with the new currents of the Bohemian International Soft Style.

Breg near Preddvor, succursal Church of St Leonard

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.