Baroque painting on Slovene territory reached its apex in the mid the 18th century, or rather in the 1760s. In terms of style, however, the moment of its culmination already indicates also its subsequent relaxation, which, however, can not be labelled simply as Rococo or late Baroque Classicism without reservations. Fading of the Late Baroque could be sensed within the last decade of Metzinger’s work (died in 1759), whereas Fortunat Bergant and Anton Cebej marked this new disposition most significantly.
The vitality of the Baroque in Carniola, with its significant share in painting, can be clearly seen in its recognisable form as well as in its geographical scope, since the works of Carniolan painters reached the patrons of all neighbouring provinces.
By far the most extensive share in painting is represented by church painting. The 18th century in Carniola was generally deficient in terms of profane themes, so much so that the extent of the otherwise most popular portrait genre was also modest in its scope within secular painting. In church painting most frequently commissioned were altarpieces, which actually became the most important item of the altar composition, while the altar as its fitting was increasingly reduced to a mere frame.
The painting of Franc Jelovšek (1700–1764) in its entirety is still an expression of the stylistic currents of the mature Baroque. It is only in the later years that something, understood as a fading from a certain stylistic period, can be perceived, for instance in the wall and ceiling paintings in the Groblje subsidiary church near Domžale. His newly discovered altarpiece from Rečica near Bled in the exhibition manifests this phenomenon.
Valentin Metzinger (1699–1759) was Jelovšek’s contemporary and their share of painting across churches indicates that they frequently collaborated in church furnishing. By the great quantity of paintings arising from his workshop it could even be called a school, to which we attribute the similar paintings by unknown as well as known painters, such as Anton Cebej, Anton Fayenz, Anton Perič, including those painters who were not necessarily members of his workshop but imitated his work, like both of the Layers, Anton Tušek as well as Janez Potočnik.
Anton Cebej (1722–after 1774) stems from Metzinger’s painting. After the master’s death, he most probably took over the leading role in the workshop’s succession; from all the painters, Cebej came closest to the colour culture of Venice in his picturesque combination of form and colour wrought with beams of illuminated light and his graceful figures in blissful elation.
The work of Fortunat Bergant (1721–1769) is a chapter in itself. His painting oeuvre is the most original: frequently attuned to the visual language of the people and easily recognisable in terms of style. Surprising, however, is the fact that he painted the majority of the works during the period from 1761 and up till the year of his death in 1769.
Appearing alongside famous names are also painters that have woven their works into the image of local painting. These are Anton M. Fayenz (ca. 1728–1779) from Ljubljana and a new name in the exhibition, Anton (?) Perič. Eloquent by the number of works is painter Anton Postl from the region of Dolenjska, who was the chronicler of the fading Baroque during the second half of the 18th century with his works imbued with lively colours and animated motifs. The recognition of quality of painting by Franc Anton Nirenberger (ca. 1712–1784) from Višnja Gora, whose two sons were also painters, is steadily growing. Active in Škofja Loka was Anton Tušek (1725–1798), even though he belongs to the so-called Ljubljana school of painting.
Andrej Herrlein (1738–1817) made his home in Carniola and left a mark on Late Baroque painting at the end of the century. His path accidentally brought him to Carniola from Germany in around 1774, and he became the central persona among the painters of Ljubljana and Carniola during the last quarter of the century. His painting brought a different visual disposition to this environment, which was refined to the Classicism of the Late Baroque.
Slovene painting of the late 18th century as well as the first two decades of the 19th century was marked by the works of Janez Potočnik (1749–1834), yet his best works were created during his early and mature years. In the exhibition the studies from 1776 reveal the expectations of the young painter.
The competence of the local painters during the 1780s did not meet the requirements of demanding aristocrats, so “foreigners” were sought for the more important representative works satisfy the need of prestige. Painters were coming from central Austria, mainly from Vienna. Eustachius Gabriel, who is represented in the exhibition by two attributed portraits, painted the hall of Smlednik Castle at around 1773. This fresco brought the new wind introducing the typical colouring of Central Europe imbued with a disposition of Rococo to Slovenia.
However, an important chapter in Slovene Late Baroque painting concerns painter Johann Martin Kremser Schmidt (1718–1801), whose works can also be found in Styria and Carniola. His oeuvre in Slovenia spans from around 1770 up till 1787, which represents the painter’s mature period and his reliance on a well reputed workshop. The most important two groups of his paintings, also in wider scope, are: the seven preserved large altarpieces in Velesovo and the four monumental altarpiece canvases and two ovals in Gornji Grad, as well as in Kranj and Dol pri Ljubljani. But the most prominent piece, the gem of the Slovene Baroque, is his painting of the little chapel in Gruber Palace in Ljubljana, which is considered the most important painting project of the Late Baroque in Slovene provinces.
The art of Kremser Schmidt would have been a lonely island in the Slovene arena had his painting not encouraged and left visible traces in the local environment. Only the workshop of Leopold Layer (1852–1828) in Kranj was capable of grasping the suggestive force of this artist from Krems an der Donau. During his activities spanning half a century, Leopold Layer remains the first on Slovene soil, whose oeuvre has not yet been surveyed, and the last of the artists and epigones active during the Baroque era, who deserves to be described as quality painter. He placed a studious focus on Venetian painting and the painting of Kremser Schmidt, and it was actually the eclectic reconciliation of these two artistic poles that caused his painting to fade into the post-Baroque era of the 19th century in Carniola.
The exhibition, which unveils the image of Late Baroque painting in Carniola, encompasses 81 paintings, accompanied by 25 prints and drawings. A part of the material is from the collections of the National Gallery of Slovenia and other museum institutions, with the majority of works belonging to the church institutions. The exhibition presents the style period of the Late Baroque in Carniola, which is defined on a time scale by the works from the mid 18th century that were produced as the late or mature work of four Ljubljana painters – France Jelovšek, Valentin Metzinger, Fortunat Bergant and Anton Cebej. Their painting was crucial for the development of Late Baroque painting in the area under consideration. The Late Baroque period faded during the first quarter of the 19th century in local workshops, among which Layer’s in Kranj was most prominent.
Author of the exhibition and project leader
Design concept for catalogue
Restoration, conservation and preparation of material for the exhibition
Tina Buh, Andrej Hirci, Mihael Pirnat, Simona Škorja
Exhibition material was loaned by
Retirement Home, Preddvor; Museum of the Upper Sava Region, Jesenice; Brdo Castle, Brdo near Kranj; Intermunicipal Museum, Kamnik ; City Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana; Museum of Christianity in Slovenia, Stična; National Museum of Slovenia, Ljubljana; Museum of the Posavje Region, Brežice ; Ursuline Convent, Ljubljana; parish offices: Bled, Dol pri Ljubljani, Gornji Grad, Kočevje, Ljubljana – Sv. Križ, Planina nad Ajdovščino, Planina pri Rakeku, Ribnica, Stari trg pri Ložu, Smlednik, Stična, Štjak, Videm-Dobrepolje, Višnja Gora, Vodice, Vrhnika; private individuals, Ljubljana
The project was financially supported by
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia