Menu Shopping cart
Your basket is empty.
Support us


Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 1 Jun. 2023 – 6 Sep. 2023

Revelations: House Altar of the Annunciation - provenance and date of creation

As part of its presentation of older visual art in Slovenia, the National Gallery exhibits, among other objects, the House Altar of the Annunciation, a work by an unknown carver from the late 17th century. The piece is presented in the Exhibition Hall 2 of its Permanent Collection. The style of the art points to the 17th century: the strong upward momentum, the figures on the consoles with distinctly mannerist proportions, the lace ornamentation of the altar crown, the volute motifs on the sides of the central section and the small ornamental arrays (a rod motif, a diamond motif and an egg, in various combinations) which decorate the frame of the central section of the completely dematerialised altarpiece.

The miniature Early Baroque altarpiece is a sophisticated piece of carving of Central-European origin, which was most likely primarily used for private devotion of a wealthy client. We are unlikely to find out the identity of this person. No unbroken provenance is recorded.

We do know, however, that this house altar was part of the rich collection of antiquities of Baron Hans Karl Kometer (1850–1925), the former owner of the Buchenstein / Pukštajn (Bukovje) manor house, situated on the right bank of the Drava, not far downstream from Dravograd. The owner died without issue, so the estate and the manor house with all its inventory were inherited by his niece, Melita Feldmann (1881–1957), an American citizen, on condition that "nothing may be sold or given away from the castle for 25 years". She and her husband moved from New York to Pukštajn, for which they had bold plans. However, a number of unfortunate business decisions led them into financial difficulties. The owner's legal representative contacted the conservator general of the Drava Banovina, France Stele (1886–1972), and asked him to appraise the collection. In March 1931, Stele inspected the entire inventory and listed and photo-documented the most important objects; he also informed the Banovina administration about the probable public auction and the possibility of enriching the collections of the National Gallery and the Arts and Crafts Department of the National Museum with valuable and important objects from the Pukštajn collection.

On 11 November 1931, the Feldmanns declared bankruptcy. Shortly afterwards, Ivan Zorman (1889–1969), then administrator of the National Gallery, carried out an appraisal; his official minutes (preserved by the National Gallery, inv. no. NG D 706-1) reveal a rich and precious collection and the exceptional nature of individual pieces.

From 8 to 17 August 1932, a public auction of the movable property of the Pukštajn mansion took place. At that time, Josip Mal (1884–1978), director of the National Museum in Ljubljana, succeeded in acquiring many of the important objects, with the help of the Chamber of Commerce, Crafts and Industry. Among them was the House Altar of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, listed in the valuation report under the number 135 and valued at 6,000 dinars. In the National Museum it was assigned an inventory number NM 10117. In the margins of the entry in the inventory book, a pencil note was later added: NG 514/46. This note refers to the protocol number of the document entitled List of sculptures transferred from the National Museum to the National Gallery for safekeeping, with permission of the Head of Section  for Art and Museums, dated 5 December 1946, where under the number 52 we find inventory number 10117, with the statement 'Altarpiece, wooden relief, polychrome' next to it. The document was signed on 16 January 1947 by the acting director of the National Museum Jože Kastelic (1913–2003), and the director of the National Gallery Ivan Zorman.

The National Gallery later included the house altarpiece in its art collection, specifically in its collection of sculpture, and assigned it the inventory number NG P 75.

Mojca Jenko                                                                                                 

Translated by
Michel Mohor

Presented: Thursday, 1 June, 6 p.m

1 June – 6 September 2023
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana