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
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.
1 December 2016−4 January 2017
National Gallery of Slovenia