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Exhibitions and Projects
10 May–6 June 2018

Revelations, May 2018

The problems of restoration−conservation of banners and their presentation

“Youngsters enjoy showing off with banners. It is usually those young men that carry them who have been conscripted for military service that year or those who have already completed their service. At some places, the banners from all chapels of ease are brought to the parish for Resurrection Procession.” (Niko Kuret, Praznično leto Slovencev [Holidays through the Year in Slovenia])

A church banner is an ecclesiastical flag bearing religious symbols and hanging on a horizontal bar. The canvas is painted with sacred motifs on both sides and is sewn into a bigger piece of colour cloth or brocade, characteristically shaped at the lower edge. The edge is decorated with tassels and hemmed with fringes. The very image can be bordered with a golden band in the manner of a frame. The banner on the horizontal bar is freely suspended on one or more load-bearing poles, depending on its size and weight. Whether carried in a procession or placed inside a church, the banners considerably contributed to the rich atmosphere of a religious holiday, and at many places they were exhibited throughout the year.

Several banners have found their home in the holdings of the National Gallery of Slovenia, with some of them being included in its permanent exhibition. As a rule, only the pictorial parts of the objects have been preserved.

Since 2009, during preparation works for the exhibition An Outline of Late Baroque Painting in Carniola and for the Gallery’s new permanent exhibition, we, the National Gallery restorers−conservators, have treated three banners and one is still in the process. All of them were already restored in the past, which, however, does not facilitate the work. In spite of the unquestioned quality of the paintings and the importance of the artists, the banners were usually lined onto a secondary canvas (completely or just onto bands) on the side that seemed less interesting or more extensively damaged, and were subsequently treated and framed as conventional pictures.

Professional ethics and understanding of a work of art as an entirety require different approaches nowadays as regards both the restoration−conservation process and the presentation of this type of art objects. The examples we present here are works by four Slovenian painters, three from the Baroque period and one from the time of Realism: Fortunat Bergant (1721–1769), Anton Cebej (1722–after 1774), Leopold Layer (1752–1828) and Jurij Šubic (1855–1890).

Equally important for the National Gallery of Slovenia as restoration-conservation interventions meeting the latest standards of profession is to come as close as possible, in terms of displaying and in accordance with the space available, to the character and content of the work of art. Trends in exhibiting banners indicate that they should be hung freely, provided the structural firmness allows it.

Miha Pirnat

10 May–6 June 2018
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana