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Exhibitions and Projects
5 February–4 March 2015

Revelations, February 2015

Mihael Stroj: Portrait of Andrej Lenče, 1862

Andrej Lenče Jr, a landowner, merchant and functionary, was born on 28 November 1791 at the village of Lavrica near Ljubljana. His parents, father Andrej (1770–1806) and mother Marija, née Trdina (1767−1861), were landowners and merchants. Their estate at Lavrica lay by the provincial road, now called Dolenjska cesta, leading towards Novo mesto. A farmhouse stood there already at the end of the seventeenth century, when Peter Winkler was the owner, followed by Baron Karel Henrik Paumgartner, who died in 1725. The earliest written sources that testify to the presence of the Lenče family at Lavrica date from 1733, when Andrej's great grandfather, Franc Adam Lenče, was already the owner of the estate, commonly known as »Gospodec«. The first landholders had the title of Dominus (»gospod« in Slovene), which usually belonged to lawyers, physicians and notable men; this title gave the name to the house.

Nothing is known about Andrej’s youth. His father died before Andrej was eighteen; then followed his wedding and taking over of the estate. On 21 November 1808 he married Marija Šušteršič (1791–1863) at the village of Šentvid near Ljubljana; she was the daughter of a local landowner and innkeeper. The couple had seven children. At the time of the Illyrian Provinces, Lenče was conscripted into the French army in 1812 but was then exempted from military service. Folk tradition also relates him to the French through his supposed finding of a French strongbox, the money from which afforded him the construction of a two-storey house with a restaurant pavilion, and a wine cellar next to it. In addition to farming, the family was also dealing with trading and transportation of goods. Their trading business crossed the borders of the Slovene lands particularly under Andrej Lenče Jr. The Lenčes traded in wine all the way to Bavaria, and some of Andrej’s descendants found their brides along the trade routes. His son Mihael, the heir to the estate, married in Bavaria and the grandson Karel in Klosterneuburg near Vienna, where he attended the wine school in the abbey. Both of them managed their inheritance carefully and further augmented it. A tourist spot began to take shape at Lavrica, where, in addition to a restaurant, a swimming pool was even available to guests. A new stimulus for the development of the place came with the opening of the railway line to Novo mesto in 1893, and at weekends an omnibus also ran from Ljubljana to the Gospodec house. The Lenče family also founded eateries in Ljubljana: the popular restaurant Beli volk (The White Wolf; Wolfova ulica no. 4) and the Lozar restaurant (Rožna ulica no. 15). For some time they were tenants of Virant House next to Gruber Palace, where they ran a hotel called Zvezdogled (The Stargazer). Andrej Lenče also increased his farming land by buying plots first at Ljubljansko barje and later mainly forest plots in the surroundings of Lavrica. He established business connections with Fidelis Terpinc, the industrialist of Fužine Castle (Kaltenbrunn), who in 1825 bought the Kaltenbrunn dominion to which Lavrica belonged until the abolition of serfdom in Austria in 1848. When feudal dominions were abolished and communes were established, Lavrica was incorporated into the Commune of Dobrunje. On its foundation in 1850, Andrej Lenče was elected a commune councillor. The Lenče, or Gospodec, restaurant at Lavrica was a meeting place for men-of-letters and other intellectuals, such as the writers Ivan Lah, Fran Levstik and Josip Jurčič, as well as the physician Ljudevit Jenko.

Andrej Lenče was a notable man in his time and is insufficiently known today, at least within the scope of local history. He died in 1865; three years before, he had his portrait painted by the painter Mihael Stroj (1803–1871) of Ljubljana. This painting, donated to the National Gallery of Slovenia by a distant descendant of Lenče, has aroused interest in him and prompted the study of his life and work, and the search for traces he left behind him.

Nataša Kovačič
Iztok Petrič

Translated by
Alenka Klemenc

5 February–5 March 2015
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana