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Art in Slovenia

The Middle Ages and the 16th Century

Standing Madonna and Child
(c. 1505), lime wood (polychromed), 93,5 x 37 x 20,5 cm

NG P 611, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

With her left hand Mary supports the naked Child, who is reaching towards a globe of the Earth, held by his mother in her right hand. Their gazes and attention are focused on the attribute; the grace of Mary’s face and the slight tilt of her head further suggest the internalisation of the symbolic meaning of the attribute. 

The Mother of God is dressed in a blue tunic, belted under her breasts, which falls in a cascade of radiating folds. In contrast to the tunic, which is subject to gravity, the drapery of the cloak is executed in illogical folds, flirting with the aestheticisation of the troughfold style. Of particular interest is the artfully rendered, shell-shaped ending of the off-white drapery with red and black stripes, which falls over Mary’s right hand, combining elements of the Southern Renaissance and the mannerist Danube School.

The Trboje Virgin and Child represents the high point of a group of sculptures with similar formal characteristics, especially in the modelling of facial types (bulging eyes, unflattering noses, fleshy lips) and the illogical arrangements of drapery in the troughfold style. The works of the master, who has been named after his sculpture from Trboje and is thought to have had a workshop in Ljubljana, can be found in several locations in Upper Carniola (Bistrica near Tržič, Bled, Gosteče, Jesenice, Srednja vas near Šenčur, Suha near Predoslje, Zakal near Kamnik), on the southern edge of the Ljubljana Marshes (Matena near Ig, Visoko below Kurešček), and in Goriška Brda (Kojsko).

Provenance: Trboje near Kranj

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.