The exact date of Bergant’s portrait of Abbot Leopold Busseth (Buset) is not known but it was almost certainly painted in the years between 1765 and the artist’s death. It was in 1765 that Abbot Leopold had a well built in the arcaded courtyard of Kostanjevica Abbey – a well that can be seen in the plans he is holding in the portrait.
Abbot Leopold (1717–1771) was born Johann Baptist to Wolf Engelbert von Buset and his wife Anna Maria Klinz, a commoner. He entered the Cistercian order at the age of twenty (in 1737), taking the religious name Leopold. Between 1738 and 1744 he studied at the Jesuit colleges in Ljubljana and Graz, completing a doctorate in theology at the latter. In 1760 he was elected Abbot of Kostanjevica, an office he occupied until his death.
Bergant gave his portrait of Abbot Leopold the same compositional design as his Portrait of Franz Xaver Taufferer, Abbot of Stična (NG S 15), following the principles of the representative portraits of church dignitaries with which he was familiar from his time in Rome. Other works worth mentioning in this context are Portrait of Clement XIII by Anton Raphael Mengs, Portrait of Benedict XIV by the French painter Pierre Subleyras and Portrait of Pius VI by Pompeo Batoni.