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Permanent Collection


House Altar of the Annunciation
(late 17th century), wood (polychromed), 80 x 41 x 7,5 cm

NG P 75, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

From bottom to top, the altarpiece consists of a predella, a central section flanked by two figures on consoles and a top section with a lacelike openwork crown. It is placed on a low stepped pedestal, slightly wider than the predella. The predella is decorated with a shallow relief of St Margaret with a dragon and St Barbara holding a chalice; the former points with her left hand to the attribute of the latter. The sides of the predella are decorated by two heads of herms, which help to support the thin-profiled predella, on which rests the central section of the altarpiece, delimited above by an arched frame. The lower half features a high relief figural group showing the Annunciation: on the left is an angel with hands crossed over its chest and on the right is Mary with hands folded in prayer and resting on her belly. The Virgin is seated on a throne; the figures are separated by a lectern with a book and the scene is crowned with an arched frieze. Above them is the Child of God surrounded by a halo of rays and a roundel of clouds. The central section is flanked by two mannerist elongated figures with mournful expressions and noticeably small heads – on the left is Mary and on the right John the Evangelist. The latter looks up to the image of God the Father in the top section, again rendered in shallow relief: his right hand is raised in blessing and his left rests on an orb. A cross wrapped in thorns forms the central motif of the openwork crown, a fantastical weave of ornate ironwork curls and swirls. The motif of thorns is repeated in the predella with the two saints. 

The strong upward thrust, the console figures of distinctly mannerist proportions, the lacelike ornamentation of the altarpiece crown, the volute motifs on the sides of the central section and the small decorative arrays (ovoid and bar-shaped motifs in several variations and a diamond motif) that adorn the frame of the central section of this  altarpiece, the composition of which is completely dematerialised, suggest that this is a late 17th-century work.

Provenance: Mansion Puchenstein (Bukovje) near Dravograd

From Mannerism to Baroque
Although imported early-Baroque works prevailed in this period and those by itinerant artists, the 17th century paved the way for the future. The political circumstances in the region were relatively stabilized in spite of the Thirty Year War and the patronage gradually grew stronger. The arrival of the Jesuits in Ljubljana, the activity of the polymath Johann Weichard Valvasor, particularly his graphic workshop at Bogenšperk/Wagensperg Castle, and the foundation of the Academia operosorum at the end of the century were the key events of the time. 

Characteristic of sculptural production on the Slovenian territory in the 17th century were the so-called “golden altars”. As a rule, these were gilded and polychrome carved wooden retables with rich ornamentation, first with crustaceous patterns which turned into vine and grapes that covered architectural framework until the achantus foliage took over and obliterated architectural structure completely. The making of golden altars included several branches of fine arts: prints, carving, gilding, painting. Religious painting of the first half of the century still contains Mannerist elements; in the second half also secular motifs became more numerous, particularly genre scenes and aristocratic portraits. The artworks mainly echo northern early-Baroque influences. 

Noteworthy among the newcomers who settled in Carniola with their workshops were the painter and gilder Hans Georg Geiger von Geigerfeld in the mid-century, who had moved to Carniola from the region of the Central Alps, and the Fleming Almanach in the third quarter of the 17th century, known only by his nickname, who worked here only for a few years. The extraordinary productivity and skills of the latter are evidenced by his rare surviving works, mentions in Valvasor’s books, and aristocratic probate inventories.