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Art in Slovenia

The Middle Ages and the 16th Century

The Death of the Virgin
(c. 1525), 44 x 73 x 8 cm

NG P 55, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

The carver placed the relief next to a canopy bed in the interior of a room with a bifora. According to apocryphal sources, the Apostles appeared at Mary’s side when she was dying. This depiction of Mary’s death belongs to the so-called Bohemian type, where the dying Mary kneels by the bedside. It captures the moment when her strength fails her and one of the Apostles supports her from behind, assisted by John, who takes from Mary’s hands the palm branch which, as was customary, was to be carried at the head of the funeral procession. The Apostles, some of whom are reading the breviary, are crowded around the central figures – they are preparing for the funeral rites, with Peter on the far right burning incense. A depiction of Christ, appearing in the clouds to receive his mother’s soul, has been fragmentarily preserved in the upper left half of the relief.


The Master of the Baierberg Altar, active in the third and fourth decades of the 16th century, had a workshop in Klagenfurt or Völkermarkt, and his works are associated with Lower Carinthia (Baierberg, Griffen and Maria Rojach). His style is characterised by the physicality of his figures, drapery that follows the contours of bodies but retains a character of its own, and hair that appears “wet”; some of his other works evidently draw on Albrecht Dürer’s graphic designs.

Provenance: Bela Peč (Fusine in Valromana) near Trbiž / Tarvisio

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.