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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 2 Feb. 2023 – 1 Mar. 2023

Revelations: Sternen's interventions on the painting of the Crucified with Mary Magdalene from Brunek near Radeče

In the first half of the 20th century, Sternen's restoration trail was dotted by numerous works of art and monuments of Slovenian, as well as (now-former) Yugoslavian, cultural heritage. His extensive oeuvre of restored oil paintings has not yet been comprehensively explored. Here is an interesting example of his interventions on a signed oil painting of the Crucifixion with Mary Magdalene (323 x 224 cm) from the Church of the Three Magi in Brunk, where it adorned the south side altar of St Aloysius until 2007, and which is now temporarily housed in the Church of St Peter in Radeče. The author of the painting is Paolo Rossini, a Late-Baroque Italian painter of Brescian origin, who is almost unknown in our country. The Brunek painting is considered to stand near the peak of his oeuvre and is tentatively dated to the beginning of the second half of the 18th century (1760–1770). We could venture to say that he created it during his stay in Venice in 1767, when his name is mentioned in a census of Venetian painters. We have the complete documentation of the first documented restoration work carried out on the badly damaged painting by Matej Sternen in collaboration with the Vienna Central Commission for Research and Preservation of Architectural and Artistic Monuments and the first conservator for Carniola France Stele. Sternen carried out the work sometime between 1912 and 1921, when he completed the restoration. The cost estimate and programme of work, which he prepared as early as 1911 on the 1910 instruction of the Vienna Central Commission, was also approved by the Central Commission in 1912 on the condition that he carry out the work in constant consultation with them, while retouching is limited to the most necessary, avoiding overpainting. The Commission requested a photograph of the condition of the painting before and after the completion of the restoration work. In his report to the Monuments Office in Ljubljana on 10 May 1921, Sternen included valuable technological and material data, which were not published by him, but, as usual for Sternen's other restoration campaigns, by France Stele. The study of this Sternen-Stele project reveals interesting details about the historical circumstances of that time, the development of monument protection service and thus of restoration, and concrete information on the planning of the intervention, the financing, the execution of the restoration work and the consequences of the final presentation, which, due to small gestures, can change the meaning of the signature and thus the art-historical interpretation.

The high-quality black and white image Crucified with Mary Magdalene from the Church of the Three Magi in Brunek shows that the decorative frame has been removed from the painting and that it is in a state prior to Sternen's restoration. It is an 'en face' print, probably by Stele, presumably from 1914 or shortly before.
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, INDOK Centre, 5846n

Mateja Neža Sitar, Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Regional Unit Maribor 

Presented: Thursday, 2 February 2023, 6 p.m

2 February – 1 March 2023
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana