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Exhibitions and Projects
2 October–4 November 2014

Revelations, October 2014

Alojzij Repič: Mirko and Zofija

In 2012, the National Gallery of Slovenia bought a plaster portrait bust of two children from a private owner, a work by the sculptor Alojzij Repič (Vrhpolje near Vipava, 1866 – Ljubljana, 1941), signed and dated 1919 as well as inscribed Mirko / Zofija. The true identity of the portrayed children was not known when the bust was acquired. The oeuvre of Alojzij Repič abounds in realistic portraits of notable figures from Slovene cultural life, but essential for the artist's place in the history of sculptural production in Slovenia is his role as an art teacher. From 1905 until his retirement in 1931 he taught modelling, carving and figural sculpture and was head of the sculptural department at the Applied Arts School in Ljubljana. Many a distinguished Slovene sculptor was trained in his classes, such as Lojze Dolinar, France Gorše, brothers Boris and Zdenko Kalin, France Kralj, Ivan Napotnik, Frančišek Smerdu, Ivan Povirek, Božo Pengov, the artist's son France Repič, etc. The output by Repič falls within the framework of academic realism, relying on examples of Renaissance and Neo-classicist sculpture, which suited best the middle-class taste of his time.

It has been found out during the search for the portrayed children's identity that, according to the exhibition catalogue, three of the twenty-five sculptures which Repič exhibited in 1924 at the Jakopič Pavilion were not for sale; one of these was entitled Dr. Derganc's Two Children. Franc Derganc (Semič, 1877 – Ljubljana, 1939) was a physician, a surgeon, who from 1911 onwards headed the first surgical ward at the hospital in Ljubljana. He and Repič presumably met already while they were both in Vienna. The sculptor remained in the city after the completion of his studies until 1902, and Derganc earned a doctorate the following year at the medical faculty there. Dr. Franc Derganc had seven children from his marriage, four boys and three girls, two of whom were named Mirko and Zofija, thus the children that are identified with the inscription on the bust discussed. Dr. Mirko Derganc (Ljubljana, 1914–1981), like his father, studied medicine and was a pioneer of plastic surgery in our country, and later President Tito's personal physician as well, whereas Zofija Derganc (Ljubljana, 1916–1990) graduated in pharmacy.

In Slovene art patrimony, the most popular among sculptural renderings of double children's portraits is certainly Franc Berneker's marble portrayal of Zdenka Vidic with her friend Mira Ban (c. 1907), and within the painting medium, worth mentioning is the delicate pastel Portrait of Nada and Nevenka Šlajmer, also simply called Two Sisters (1906), by Ivana Kobilca. The bust of the Derganc children – the five-year-old Mirko and his two years younger sister Zofija, which, like the two above-mentioned artworks, belongs to the intimate sphere of private commissions – significantly complements not only Repič's oeuvre in the sculptural collection of the National Gallery of Slovenia, but also this art genre in its holdings in general.

Mateja Breščak

Translated by
Alenka Klemenc

2 October–5 November 2014
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana