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Exhibitions and Projects
15. June–25. September 2016

Figure and Ornament

Baroque Sculptor Johannes Komersteiner and His Circle

The National Gallery of Slovenia successfully collaborates with numerous outstanding European museums and galleries on a regular basis. Its collaboration with the greatest museum in Croatia, the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, in the sense of exchanging exhibitions or individual works of art and communicating information, has been excellent for decades. As a result of these efforts the present exhibition has been staged; it is a résumé of an overall exhibition of the oeuvre of Johannes Komersteiner and his circle that was on display in Zagreb in the first half of this year. The works selected for the exhibition in Ljubljana present the sculptor whose name is almost unknown in our country. He moved from Tyrol to Ljubljana where he was active between the years 1673 in 1687.

Komersteiner was a sculptor and a joiner. Two works are attributed to him in Ljubljana: the stone fountains of Hercules and Neptune, of which only the title figures survive. The statue of Hercules now decorates the entrance hall of the Ljubljana Town Hall, the statue of Neptune is part of the fountain at the corner between Gosposka and Salendrova streets in Ljubljana. Within the patrimony of church sculpture in the broader surroundings of Ljubljana, his formal and stylistic-typological characteristics can be traced in the statues of the high altar in the church at Leskovec pri Krškem, and even greater similarity is noticeable in the statues on the high altar of the church at Mišji Dol whose sculptural language almost completely corresponds to the master’s.

Komersteiner modernized the traditional carving-and-sculpting culture of Carniola, which mainly found expression in the so-called ‘golden altars’, by introducing Baroque innovations, belonging to which are certain decorative elements and stylistically more progressive formulations of figures.

However, Johannes Komersteiner executed the great majority of his sculpted and carved oeuvre in Croatia.

He first appears in the archival documents of Zagreb in 1676, when he signed his name in the contract for the execution of a statue for the Jesuit College in Zagreb; he added in German that he was a sculptor of Ljubljana. He introduced several innovations into the sculpture of north Croatia, which are expressed in the formulations of figures of saints, in architecture and altar ornamentation, and they actually meant the advent of the Baroque style in this area. He received prominent commissions, e.g. the altars in Zagreb Cathedral.

Komersteiner executed several altars for Zagreb Cathedral (those of the Mother of God, 1686–88; St. Ladislaus, 1688–90; and St. Emerik, 1689), and attributed to him are also two altars in the former Jesuit Church of St. Catherine in Zagreb (St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Borgia) and altars that probably came from Zagreb Cathedral but are now placed in the churches at Gotalovec and Jakuševec, and also the mentioned altar of St. Emerik, now in the church at Vurot, and naturally numerous individual pieces. He based the Baroque style of his works on traditional concepts. In addition to a more progressive formulation of Baroque figures he also introduced into the milieux where he was active a type of Solomonic column and the motif of abundant intertwinement of acanthus ornament enlivened by little angels.

Komersteiner had a sculpture workshop at Kaptol, or Potok respectively (today’s Tkalčićeva street), in Zagreb where he also lived. His workshop was gradually taken over and run by his sons. In the later output of the Komersteiner workshop, three hands can be discerned. Each of these followers carried on and solved the model of Komersteiner’s formal code in his own way. Most of the surviving works belong to a sculptor who is colloquially called ‘Master of Wide Mouth’; he was less skilled in his craft but his interesting personal idiom cannot be denied. A second follower could be the master’s son of his first marriage in Birlingen, Michael Komersteiner. The latter’s name occurs in the contract for the high altar in the Franciscan church at Kloštar Ivanić. A third follower can be identified in the side altar of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in the church at Vrapče near Zagreb.

The exhibition presents 36 works by Johannes Komersteiner and other sculptors of his workshop. These works definitely put master Komersteiner, who can no longer be neglected, on the art map of the second half of the 17th century.

Information leaflets for visitors
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Author of the exhibition
Nela Tarbuk

Exhibition curators
Jasmina Fučkan, Ferdinand Šerbelj

Exhibition design and graphic design
Sanja Bachrach Krištofić, Mario Krištofić

Conservation-restoration Works
Jasminka Podgorski, Ksenija Pintar, Robert Brdarić, Anđelko Pedišić

Exhibition is supported by
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia
City Office for Education, Culture and Sport, Zagreb
Cvetličarna Galerija, Marjan Lovšin
Official champagne at the openings of exhibtions
Radgonske gorice d.d.

15. June–25. September 2016
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana