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Exhibitions and Projects
1 December 2016−4 January 2017

Revelations, December 2016

Michelangelo Unterberger: Adoration of the Shepherds and Adoration of the Magi

Michelangelo Unterberger (Cavalese near Bolzano, 1695 – Vienna, 1758) was the first-born son in the family of South Tyrolean painter Christoph Unterberger. Also Michelangelo’s brother Franz Sebald and his nephews Ignaz and Christoph Unterberger were respected painters. When he was only sixteen he painted The Prophecy of Simeon the Elder for a church in Trentino and The Judgement of Solomonfor Bolzano. After having been trained in his local environment, he left for Venice where he particularly carefully studied the painting of Nicola Grassi. He then became a citizen of Bolzano, and from there his paintings, mainly altarpieces, spread his fame across Tyrol and all the way to the Bavarian Passau by the Danube.

In 1737 the painter moved to imperial Vienna where he incredibly rapidly ranked among the foremost masters of altar compositions and also among the artists with the honorary title of court painter. In 1751 Empress Maria Theresa conferred the title of “rector magnificus” upon him, and before his death he was twice appointed rector for painting, sculpture and architecture at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.

The two paintings in the National Gallery of Slovenia point to the time of Unterberger’s mature Viennese style, which is evidenced by the painter’s inscription on the back of the Adoration of the Magi: Michel Ang. Unterperger P: / Kays: Hofmaler bei M: Teresia / a Wien. With their picturesque expression and emphasis on Baroque loveliness, the pictures are typical examples of Rococo painting that was brought to Vienna by the masters who had immigrated from the Venetian art milieu. Not only is the general Venetian Rococo language recognizable in the two paintings, but both of them also confirm that Unterberger modelled his work on the examples of at least two concrete famous Venetian masters: for his painterly manner and figures he relied on Nicola Grassi and for the light-hearted eloquence on Francesco Fontebasso.

Judging from the format, the paintings were used for private worship, while such motifs were also a picturesque complement to Christmas Nativity scenes popular with Baroque aristocracy.

The paintings were donated to the National Gallery in 2010 by the renowned surgeon Dr. Zora Janžekovič (Slovenska Bistrica, 1918 – Maribor, 2015), and according to her information, they come from some Styrian castle.

Presentation will take place on Thursday, 1 December, at 6 pm.
You are kindly invited to attend it.

On display in the rooms of the Gallery's permanent collection until 4 January 2017.

Ferdinand Šerbelj

Translated by
Alenka Klemenc

1 December 2016−4 January 2017
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana