This painting, which was intended for an altar in a private chapel, is fairly characteristic of the artist: a good knowledge of Venetian art can be deduced above all from Gabriel and the angels around him. From the iconographic point of view it should be noted that the archangel is coming from the right and not, as was usual, from the left, and he appears behind the Virgin’s back and not in front of her. It should also be noted that the index finger of his right hand is pointing at the Holy Ghost and not at the Virgin; this was a very widespread motif in the Counter Reformation, the aim being to divest the scene of the Annunciation of the intimate character which is often to be found on older depictions.
Restored: 1957 and 1978, both times by the ZSV, Ljubljana.
Provenance: Presented to the Narodna galerija by the Ministry for the Army and Navy in 1939. It came from the chapel of the military hospital in the former Selo Castle near Ljubljana. In 1884 it was in the military hospital on what it was then Dunajska Street (today’s Slovenska) (Strahl, 1884), in the wing on the Cesta cesarja Franca Jožefa (today’s Cankarjeva Street), which once housed the church of the Poor Clares, and in the part which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1895 (Radics 1909). Radics mentions that in 1909 the painting was already in the new military hospital. There are different opinions with regard to its origin. According to Steska it was in the former Rožnik Castle (Rosenbühel), and a Doctor, Dr. Januarius Curter von Breinlstein, donated it to the military hospital (Steska 1898). Radics (1909) thinks that it was once in Rožnik Castle and prior to that in the private chapel of the observatory (by which he means Gruber Palace in Zvezdarska Street in Ljubljana; Radics 1909). Later Steska mentions a Gruber chapel (but not exactly which one) and the military hospital as the former location (Steska 1909). Gaber (1931) doubts that there could have been two paintings of the Annunciation in the chapel in Gruber Palace, especially since the painting under discussion here would have been too large for the small chapel; nor does he agree that the painting could have been given to the Poor Clares, because in 1786, when their convent had already been disbanded, the painting was apparently still in the Gruber chapel.
The present Annunciation would have been too low and too narrow for the chapel in Gruber Palace, not too big! As regards iconography, the only picture missing in the cycle of scenes from the life of the Virgin in the chapel would be The Birth of Christ. The patron saint of the altar has not yet been identified; the present smaller canvas of Our Lady of Sorrows on the altar is a later addition. The doubt that there could have been two depictions of the Annunciation in the same chapel – one already painted on the left wall next to the altar, while the other would have been the altarpiece – is justified. The traditional idea that the painting was once in the castle below Rožnik Hill (the castle of the Viderčan family at Glince/Rosenbüchel), as mentioned by Steska, and that Dr. Januarius Curter von Breinlstein presented it to the military hospital, is likely to be correct, since the archives tell us that from 1774 to 1787 the castle was owned by Gabriel Gruber’s widowed mother, Josefa Gruber, née von Schwindel. After her death in 1787 the inventory of her legacy mentions the chapel on the first floor and an altarpiece of the Annunciation in a gilded frame (estate inventory, lit. S. file XXXV, No. 258, Arhiv Republike Slovenije [Archives of the Republic of Slovenia]). The Order of the Poor Clares was disbanded as early as 1786, so the painting could not have been their property, but that of the military hospital which had taken over the convent buildings, including the church. It is to this hospital that Dr Januarius Curter von Breinlstein donated the painting. Strahl mentions the picture in the military hospital in 1884. Unfortunately we do not know where Dr. Curter got the painting, nor when he donated it to the hospital.
Exhibitions: 1957, Ljubljana, No. 9; 1960, Ljubljana, No. 86; 1961, Ljubljana, no No.; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 77; 1989c, Ljubljana, No. 444.
Lit.: Strahl 1884, p. 40 (cf. Cevc 1970, p. 96); Steska 1898, p. 578; DS 1899, Fig. on p. 177; Radics 1909, p. 87; Steska 1909, p. 56; Steska 1927, p. 176 (from the chapel in Gruber Palace); Gaber 1931, p. 5; Stele 1938, p. 16; Dworschak et al., 1955, p. 276; Stele-Možina 1957a, (Melita Stele quotes a statement by A. Gaber, that the painting was once in the former convent of the Poor Clares and Steska’s note that the canvas was in Rosenbüchel Castle, the property of the widowed Josefa Gruber, née von Schwindel); Stele-Možina 1957b, p. 29, Cat. No. 45; Cevc 1960, p. 36, Cat. No. 86, Fig. 44; Cevc 1961, p. 31; Dobida 1961, p. 23; Zeri [& Rozman] 1983, pp. 148–150, Cat. No. 77, Fig. 76; Slovenci 1989, p. 175; Feuchtmüller 1989, pp. 108, 452, 575, 578, Cat. and Fig. No. 534.
Note: Inscription at bottom right: 1771/29. Nov., below it the original date 1776 (?).