late-Baroque sculptor Joseph Straub (1712–1756) is one of the leading
representatives of Baroque in Slovenia. His works can be most extensively found
in today's Styria, but also in Vipava region and outside the presently
demarcated national borders – in Austrian Styria (Ernovž/Ehrenhausen), Italy
(Gorizia), Hungary (Velika Kaniža/Nagykanizsa) and
Croatia (Čakovec, Taborsko, Varaždin, Zlatar).
four brothers who were all sculptors like himself: Johann Baptist (1704–1784),
Philipp Jakob (1706–1774), Johann Georg the Younger (1721–1773) and Franz Anton
(1726–c. 1774/76). The five were the sons of carpenter and sculptor Johann
Georg Straub the Elder (1674–1755) from his two marriages in the small south
German town Wiesensteig. They pursued distinguished sculptors' careers.
Although they received part of their art training together, each of them
finally settled in a different place of the Holy Roman Empire and beyond. Some
of them in important art- and political centres of the said territory, others
on its outskirts.
brothers acquired their first art skills in the workshop of their father in
Wiesensteig. The father, together with his brother Johannes (1681–1759) and his
offspring, provided a great variety of service to his clients. They manufactured
furniture and altars, carved statues, and supplied ornaments, polychromy and
gilding. All of the five brothers thus received an all-round education within
their family, which enabled them to make a living also outside their
birthplace, Wiesensteig. Johann Baptist became court sculptor in Munich in
1737, his younger brother Philipp Jakob took over the workshop of the late
sculptor Johann Jakob Schoy (1686–1733) in Graz and took up the post of the
sculptor of the province. Three younger brothers settled on the outskirts of
the Holy Roman Empire and beyond – Joseph in Maribor, Johann Georg Jr. in
Radgona/Bad Radkersburg, and Franz Anton in Zagreb.
likely that Joseph initially followed his brother Philipp Jakob to Graz. In
1736 he is mentioned in Ljubljana in the workshop of the established sculptor
Heinrich Michael Löhr, but he got involved in litigation with the master
because of his attempt to act independently. Shortly after that he is active in
the Vipava region. In 1743 he was entrusted with a prestigious commission –
probably through the agency of his brother’s Graz workshop – placed by the city
council of Maribor for the execution of a Plague Column. Among his best works
mention should be made particularly of the sculptural decoration of the
unpreserved altars at Studenci in Maribor (the statues are now in the Regional
Museum of Maribor) and in the Minorite church in Ptuj.
statues of St. Joseph and St. John Nepomuk are set on the high altar of the
church in Štanjel, together with the statues of St. Augustine and St. Gregory
which are by some other sculptor. The signature Iose. Stravp Inventor Scvlp. Anno 1741 on the pedestal of St. John
Nepomuk dates both statues into the time of the artist’s activity in the Vipava
region and emphasizes Straub’s independent role both in the concept and
execution of the two statues. The year 1741 means that the Štanjel statues are
the earliest documented works in the sculptor’s oeuvre.
their poor state, caused by wood pest and decay, the two statues were taken to
the Restoration Centre of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage
of Slovenia (IPCHS) at the end of November 2017.
analyses showed that there were up to seven layers of paint on the wooden
statues. Because of so numerous overpaintings it is possible to assume that the
statues of Sts. Joseph and John Nepomuk had been brought from somewhere else
and were together with the statues of Sts. Augustine and Gregory uniformly
painted. Later overpaintings followed the taste of each period and imitated the
appearance of stone. It is difficult to remove such thick layers of paint, even
more so because the materials used were different. The work is extremely
time-consuming, mainly because the goal of conservation-restoration
interventions is to preserve the lowest-lying layer of paint as much as
occasion of the September Revelations we also call attention to two kneeling angels by Joseph Straub which are
displayed in the Grand Hall (No. 4) of the permanent collection of the National
Gallery of Slovenia.
The restoration of
the Straub statues from Štanjel is a result of the international project Tracing the Art of the Straub Family (TrArS),
co-funded by the European Commission's programme Creative Europe.