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Art in Slovenia

The Middle Ages and the 16th Century

St Giles
(c. 1505), lime wood (polychromed), 97 x 59 x 25 cm

NG P 33, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

The saint is depicted seated, behind the doe that sustained him on her milk as he retreated into solitude. Saint Giles is dressed in a monk’s cowl and looks with gratitude at the kind animal, his attribute.

The figural group appears tectonic, and the drapery, still marked by touches of graphism, already foreshadows the late Gothic Baroque. This, and the depressed folds indicated in some places, suggest that the carver’s style was influenced by his familiarity with the works of the Villach carving workshop.


The saint with the doe is the work of the Master of the Trboje Madonna, whose works were produced in different parts of Upper Carniola, with some also originating from the southern edges of the Ljubljana Marshes and Goriška Brda. Typical of his work are the genre-specific facial expressions with slightly bulging eyes and plump lips. It is thought that the workshop, which was active in the last decade of the 15th century and until around 1515, was based in Ljubljana.

Provenance: Bled, the old parish church of St Martin

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.