In addition to stylistic
features, archival documents likewise corroborate Antonio Bellucci as the
author of the painting Pietà. His oeuvre belongs to
the sphere of Venetian Baroque painting already heralding the poetry of the
picturesque Rococo. His style stems from the Venetian painting grafted onto the
aesthetics of Bolognese academism and the sensual figural idiom of master
Pietro Liberi († 1687) of Venice. Around the year 1690, painting commissions
attracted Bellucci to the court of Vienna, and also to other private and
ecclesiastical patrons (Klosterneuburg). He continued his artistic career in
Germany and England, but he died in his birthplace, Pieve di Soligo in Veneto.
The Tyrol-born merchant of Ljubljana Jakob Schell von
Schellenburg (1652–1715), who lived in the Carniolan capital already before 1684 and until his death, was also well
informed in the fine arts. He intended a family burial space for himself and
his wife Anna Katharina to be arranged in the chapel of St. John the Baptist in
the former Franciscan Church which stood on the site of the present-day central
market in Ljubljana. However, the couple later decided to have their final
place of rest in the Ursuline church. In 1694 Schell commissioned a Holy Cross
altarpiece for the said chapel and the Bellucci Pietà was mounted on its predella. The contract for the altarpiece
stipulated that it was “primo Mastro di
Venetia” that should execute the marble sculpture; the master has recently
proved to be Paolo Callalo (1655–1725). After the Josephinian suppression of
the Franciscan monastery the altarpiece was sold in 1787 to the church at
Hrenovice near Postojna where it still finds its present whereabouts but has
been considerably rearranged.
A long time before the
altarpiece was moved, i.e. around the year 1740, for an unknown reason the
Bellucci painting was replaced with a variant of the Pietà motif by Valentin Metzinger (1699–1759) which, however,
remained with the Ljubljana Franciscans when the altarpiece went to Hrenovice.
The reputation of the Bellucci work is confirmed by the copy that was made even
prior to Meztinger’s variant for an unidentified patron by Giulio Quaglio
(1668–1751) at the time when he was frescoing Ljubljana Cathedral. The
whereabouts of the dethroned Bellucci canvas remain unknown until the beginning
of the previous century when it was mentioned to be at Šmarje - Sap in
Dolenjska (Lower Carniola), and in 1935 it was acquired by the National Gallery
of Slovenia as an anonymous work. It was later attributed to Quaglio, but after
a recent restoration and stylistic analyses it proved to be a work by Bellucci.
In the current enlarged permanent collection of the National Gallery of
Slovenia it figures as one of the most interesting “new” acquisitions.
Cf.: M. Klemenčič, E. Lucchese, F. Šerbelj, Pietà Antonia Belluccija za Schellenburgov Križev oltar pri
ljubljanskih frančiškanih (summary: Antonio Bellucci’s Pieta for Jakob Schell
von Schellenburg’s Altar of the Holy Cross in the Former Franciscan Church in
Ljubljana), Zbornik za umetnostno zgodovino, n. v. 52, 2016.
4 January–31 January 2018
National Gallery of Slovenia