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Exhibitions and Projects
2 April–6 May 2015

Revelations, April 2015

Revival of a banner by Jurij Šubic

Jurij Šubic (Poljane nad Škofjo Loko, 1855 – Leipzig, 1890), one of the prominent Slovene representatives of realist painting, comes from an artisan family in which production of items of visual arts flourished already in the late 18th century. In the 19th century, the Šubic line branched into several artisan families, and from the family of Štefan Šubic of Poljane as many as five sons came who carried on the family tradition. The most important of them are the talented and academically trained brothers Janez (1850–1889) and Jurij. The latter successfully completed the academy in Vienna, after which he sought his fortune in several places in Europe.

He began his military service in Trieste and was transferred to Bosnia in 1878, where he chronicled the turbulent events in a number of excellent drawings. Later he went to Bohemia and Moravia and in 1880 he painted mythological and allegorical scenes in the palace of the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in Athens. Although Šubic was a respected artist in this city, he was attracted by the cosmopolitan Paris, and it was only there that his artistic talent for painting outdoors got into full swing during his ten-year stay in the metropolis and short visits to Normandy. Very popular proves to be his plein-air painting Before the Hunt (1883). Throughout, Jurij Šubic maintained contacts with his homeland. He, as well as his brother Janez, contributed several illustrations to literary and documentary works, because of which the two are credited as the pioneers of Slovene art illustration. In addition to effective realistic portraits, Jurij carried out commissions given by church clients, whether through his father's workshop or on his own. He made use of his painting experiences, deliberately balancing realistic form and light interpretation, also in his religious works, which is epitomized, as pars pro toto for his sacred output, in the exhibited banner of an unknown provenance.

The banner was accepted into the restoration process in 2013, but even prior to this several interventions had been made on it, but only on the side with the images of Sts. Barbara and Blaise. The canvas was mounted on a decorative frame in such a way that only one side, i.e. the better or more interesting one, could be seen. However, the contemporary approach requires an overall treatment for two-sided images, so that both sides can be visible. We tackled the problem of this semi-restored banner by “un-restoring” first the face of the picture, and only afterwards a new procedure of conservation and restoration began. If the substances used in the past cannot be easily removed, it is very difficult to avoid collateral damage. As was possible to judge from a mere look, and was subsequently proven during the restoration process, the canvas had been in a very poor condition even before the first intervention. Because the banner had been in use in different weather conditions and because of the aging of the material, the canvas was not only bent and torn at several places but also distinctively brittle.

Previous restoration experiences call for a well-considered treatment which will recover the original image of the work of art and protect its material existence, but at the same time ensure its aesthetic effect. The tears of the canvas have been glued “at contact”, which means that the adhesive substance does not cover the layers of paint. In view of the original purpose of the banner it seems right that it should be hung, but because the support is brittle, it has also been reinforced at the sides to secure bearing strength. The canvas is inserted between two wooden frames. This sort of presentation is only an approximation to the final solution and, being a “work in process”, it is only in the phase of testing.

Ferdinand Šerbelj
Mihael Pirnat

2 April–6 May 2015
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana