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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 2 Mar. 2023 – 5 Apr. 2023

Revelations: Sternen's restoration work in the chapels and his painting of the illusionistic works on the vaults of the Church of the Annunciation in Ljubljana

The originally bright, white interior of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in Ljubljana received its first pictorial decoration only in 1845–1855, when the Ljubljana painter Matevž Langus (1792–1855) painted all six side chapels and the vaults of the nave and the chancel. The painter and restorer Matej Sternen (1870–1949) restored the severely deteriorated paintings in the chapels between 1925 and 1934. Sternen's restoration work in the Franciscan church shows his outlook on monument protection and his distinctive practice, in which he was guided by the basic principle of the Vienna Central Commission for Monuments: "conserve, do not restore", which means that he insisted on preserving the original substance. Although the restoration documentation has not been fully preserved, his interventions in the chapels prove that Sternen marks the beginning of an era of conscientious documentation, which is one of the fundamental principles of monument conservation, also followed in practice. His reports are comprehensible and comprehensive, containing information on materials, techniques and procedures. For the interventions in the chapels, he inventoried the condition of the paintings before the interventions, drew up a General Restoration Programme indicating the restoration work required and a cost estimate. In addition to photographing the paintings, he also made outlines on tracing paper and watercolour sketches of scenes, which have unfortunately not yet been found. In the final presentation of the paintings, he adhered to the strict principles of retouching and reconstructing only the destroyed parts of the painting, retouching with casein paints, in a rather "painterly" way, one might say, and in such a way that the retouching of the damaged parts was clearly distinguishable from the original. In 1935, he was also entrusted with the important task of carrying out a completely new pictorial decoration of the church vaults. The badly damaged older vault painting was replaced by a picturesque painting based on Baroque illusionist ceiling images, and Sternen reached one of his artistic peaks with this monumental work, which was executed with technological excellence.

Mateja Neža Sitar, Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Regional Unit Maribor
Ajda Mladenović, Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Restoration Centre

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

2 March - 5 April 2023
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana