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Exhibitions and Projects
6 October – 2 November 2016

Revelations, October 2016

Frančišek Smerdu: Reclining Female Nude with a Wreath

In 2012 the National Gallery of Slovenia received a donation of thirty-seven pieces in plaster and clay by sculptor Frančišek Smerdu (Postojna, 1908 − Ljubljana, 1964). They were donated by the artist's daughter, Mojca Smerdu, likewise an academically trained sculptor. As stipulated by the deed of gift, the National Gallery will prepare in 2018, on the 110th anniversary of Frančišek Smerdu's birth, an exhibition of the donated works and publish a scholarly catalogue of them. Since they were received, the works have been in the process of restoration.

Frančišek Smerdu finished his secondary school training in 1927 at the sculpture department of the Craft School in Ljubljana under sculptor Alojzij Repič (1866–1941). In the following year he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb which he finished in 1932. He subsequently also specialized in sculpture with Ivan Meštrović who was his major influence in addition to his teacher of stone sculpture, Frano Kršinić. In 1946 Smerdu became professor at the newly established Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana where he worked until his death. He was a member of the Independents, a group of Slovene artists founded in 1937, who exhibited together and mainly promoted human figure in sculpture based on traditional realism but enriched by modernist tendencies. After the war, Smerdu also received public commissions (Monument to Ivan Cankar on the hill of Rožnik, 1948; The Underground Resistance Fighter in Ljubljana, 1952, Monument to France Prešeren in Kranj, 1952), but the most important is his small-scale sculpture in baked clay, bronze and stone.

Smerdu's creative urge most frequently found expression in poetic and refined female figures. In 1957 he designed four female nudes for the embellishment of the staircase leading to the Festival Hall in Ljubljana (Pionirski dom, Center za kulturo mladih): Reclining Female Nude with a Mask, Reclining Female Nude with Grapes, Reclining Female Nude with a Flute and Reclining Female Nude with a Wreath. These decorative allegorical nudes anticipate the change of body proportions in Smerdu's work. The soft, rounded and full, smoothly modelled elongated female bodies, with long necks, proportionally diminished heads, wide hips, archaic facial characteristics indicated by a few features only, with stylized long hair, slender ankles on long legs and often furnished with attributes, such as flowers or a book, are aesthetically extremely sublime works which delicately convey the sense of complete absorption of the figures in their inner world.

The animated plaster model for the figure of the Reclining Female Nude with a Wreath, which is, like the rest of the group of four, designed in the sense of Baroque reclining staircase figures, was restored in 2014 by Rebeka Vegelj, a student of restoration at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, as the practical part of her diploma work. The statue had suffered numerous abrasions and incisions, the tops of several protruding volumes had been broken off. Within the scope of interventions cleaning was done, and because of the displeasing impression the broken off tip of the nose, parts on the chest and a finger of the right hand were remodelled. The missing toes of both feet were fashioned with the help of moulds made after the bronze statue in the Festival Hall.

For the presentation of the statue in the Gallery's exhibition room a pedestal was made with the same inclination as that of the stone fence of the Festival Hall staircase.  

We express our sincere thanks to the benefactor for her gift, which invaluably complements the sculpture collection of the National Gallery of Slovenia.

The presentation by the authors will be on Thursday, October 6 at 18 pm.
You are cordially invited. 

On display in the permanent collection until November 2.


Mateja Breščak
Martina Vuga

Translated by
Alenka Klemenc

6 October – 2 November 2016
Narodna galerija
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana