As a second-year student at the Vienna Academy, Alojz Gangl received a commission from his homeland to design the first Slovenian monument to a poet Valentin Vodnik (1887–1889).
Gangl created the monument to the national revivalist, poet, priest, teacher, editor and translator in Hellmer’s studio in Prater in Vienna. The figure in this half-scale maquette for the Vodnik Monument, dated 1888, is wearing a draped cassock. The poet stands in a contrapposto position, holding a folded scroll in his left hand, leaning slightly on a classical fluted column on his left. His right hand lifts his heavy outer garment, animating its folds along the right side of his body, from beneath which his slightly bent right leg protrudes. His head is turned to the left and looks down at the viewer.
The finished monument, which differs in many respects from the maquette, was placed in front of the former Ljubljana Lyceum in the then Valvasor Square. It was inaugurated on 30 June 1889, following three days of celebrations, with cannon shots fired from the castle. The crowds admired Gangl’s Vodnik, dressed in his signature cassock and a richly draped heavy cloak, holding a scroll of papers, a symbol of poetry, in his right hand. The drapery of his cloak, still in the Baroque manner, flows over his right forearm, while his left arm extends expressively and his head turns to the right. The fluted column of the maquette was removed from the final composition by Gangl, probably under the influence of Kaspar von Zumbusch.
This academic realist work with neoclassical and neo-Baroque sculptural elements is an important milestone in the development of Slovenian sculpture, as it paved the way for other depictions of prominent Slovenian cultural figures, which served to promote national values. With the Vodnik monument, the 30-year-old Gangl became a “champion of sculpture”, creating the first Slovenian figural monument to the first Slovene poet.