Menu Shopping cart
Your basket is empty.
Support us


Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 7 Apr. – 4 May 2022

Revelations: Matevž Langus (1792–1855)

St George, 1854

Matevž Langus, whose 230th birthday will be celebrated on 9 September this year, has repeatedly painted the image of St George. He included the city patron on a fresco in the dome of the Ljubljana Cathedral. He leaned on the Baroque illusionist proposal of Giulio Quaglio. Two more altar paintings in oil have been preserved, pointing to two sources from which Langus drew inspiration. The painter relied on an older Baroque template when he painted St George in his fight with the dragon for the main altar of the parish church in Šturje near Ajdovščina. He copied the influential work of Martino Altomonte from the Ljubljana Church of the Teutonic Knights, which represents St George on horseback in a dramatic skirmish with the dragon.

Six years younger Langus' painting of St George from the collection of the National Gallery relies to a large extent on a painting by his contemporary Philipp Veit (1793–1877). The Berlin master, who is considered one of the key painters of the Nazarene movement, painted St George during his work in Frankfurt in 1833, for the altar on the northern side chapel of the church of St George in Bensheim. Veit's pencil drawing has been preserved, and the motif was transferred to copperplate by Jiří Döbler (1788–1845) in 1837. Veit’s St George is one of those Frankfurt paintings that contemporaries praised as simple, beautiful and pious. Veit's version of George's triumphal-contemplative presentation shows the echoes of Raphael's Renaissance art, while also drawing attention to another divine source for Nazarene German painters, namely Albrecht Dürer.

Langus's painting of St George is much bigger than Veit's. Langus fully summed up the saint’s posture, with his right leg raised next to the dragon, leaning on a spear with a banner. Also, the gentle youthful face, George's armour, outerwear, headgear, sabre and shield are carefully summarized according to the German model. In the composition, the painter kept the king’s daughter in prayer on the right, and added an angelic escort on highlighted clouds above. He changed and expanded the rocky landscape, adding a line of earth to the foreground and a silhouette of the castle in the background. Although the colour deviates from the pattern - the most striking change is George's vibrant red dress - we can also recognize a characteristic Nazarene colour palette in Langus' painting. Veit’s composition and the characteristic colour are reinterpreted with slightly melancholic mood accents, which reflect Langus' knowledge and use of modern Nazarene patterns.

In Langus's sketchbook we also find a sketch for a picture, most likely drawn according to an extant print. The size and shape of Langus' painting testify that it was an altarpiece. When purchasing the painting in 1988, the National Gallery was unable to obtain more accurate information on provenance. A tangible trace of the former owners of the painting was hidden in the notes of France Stele, who in 1929 recorded seeing the Langus' painting of St George, signed and dated 1854 in Wilsonia, Grimščice near Bled. Here, the painting was still in the art collection of dr. Ivan Švegel in 1950. The connection between the creation of the painting and the diplomat and politician, Baron Josef Schwegel (1836–1914), who bought the Grimščice Manor in 1859 and was born in Zgornje Gorje, where a new altar for the parish church of St George was made in 1853 and 1854, remains a tempting assumption.

Author: Kristina Preininger

Presentation, set to be today on Thursday, April 7, 2022, at 6 pm is canceled. New date is yet to be determined. 

7 April – 4 May 2022
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana