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Exhibitions and Projects
4 January–31 January 2018

Revelations, January 2018

Destiny of a Painting

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.


Ferdinand Šerbelj

Translated by
Alenka Klemenc

4 January–31 January 2018
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana