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Permanent Collection

1700–1800

Martin Johann Schmidt

(Grafenwörth, 1718 − Stein an der Donau, 1801)

The Annunciation
1771, oil, canvas, 158 x 96,5 cm

NG S 1301, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
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 (?).

1700–1750: High Baroque

The era of High Baroque represents the second zenith of art in the Slovenian lands after the Gothic period. Supported by benevolent church and aristocratic patrons, art production flourished in a stable political environment and favourable economic situation. As the diocesan and administrative centre of the province, Ljubljana became the undisputable hub of art. As the new Baroque church replaced the old Gothic cathedral and the monastery basilica of the Knights of the Teutonic Order yielded its place to Domenico Rossi's architecture based on the centralized design, Ljubljana in a relatively short time changed its look from a Central European hamlet to a town of the Mediterranean character. Commercial advantages stimulated a rapid formation of a trilingual culture, where Slovenian, German and Italian languages were used indiscriminately. 

The invited Italian artists started a golden age in all art fields and exerted influence on the development of local art production. The central place went to the Venetian sculptor Francesco Robba who produced both sacred and secular works; outstanding among them is his fountain of the Carniolan rivers as the identification symbol of the city of Ljubljana. Painting is represented in the Grand Hall by the monumental canvases of the immigrant Valentin Metzinger, the oldest in the group of four Ljubljana Baroque painters. The expressed religious emotion, dynamic composition, imaginary and celestial landscapes, and colour harmony in the works by Metzinger remained the standard of quality and a source of inspiration deep into the 19th century. His altar paintings often found place in the churches where fresco decoration was executed by Franc Jelovšek, who, in turn, built his style on the examples of Giulio Quaglio and contemporary Austrian fresco painting. Jelovšek made only a very few works in oil of which his Holy Family is the best and is the artist’s contribution to the Baroque veneration of the Mother of God.

In the Grand Hall, single representative works by several other Baroque painters active in Central Europe are also on display: Pieter Mulier, Giambettino Cignaroli and Martin van Meytens the Younger, while Franz Karl Remb grew up in Radovljica and made his career in Vienna and Graz.

1770–1800: The Decline of Baroque

The late-Baroque period favoured more etheric images of saints. Apostles in ecstasy, zealous Fathers of the Church, visons of saints, and Marian images in the first place were rendered with grace and ease. The paintings boast Rococo playfulness of colour and light. This manner is represented in the collection by the works of the Venetian Nicola Grassi and those by the Ljubljana painters Valentin Metzinger in his late phase and his successor Anton Cebej. The latter painter’s colouring and use of light evidence that he of all native Baroque masters depended most strongly on Venetian influences. 

The lyrical, Rococo mood also pervades religious and mythological works by a painter from the Danube area, Martin Johann Schmidt, called Kremser Schmidt, who in the 1770s brought late-Baroque Austrian models to our country. Through the activity of the Layer painting workshop of Kranj his influence reached deep into the 19th century. Motifs became simpler but more narrative, tailored to the demands of popular devotion; the number of the depictions of the Way of the Cross grew steadily. 

Outstanding among the late-Baroque portraits are those by Fortunat Bergant. His portraits of Carniolan nobility excel in penetrating depiction of individual characters, elegant postures and suggestive rendering of different materials. 

Polychrome carved sculpture of the earlier part of the 18 century is represented by rather popular pieces of the Franciscan workshop, two wooden figurines belong to the productive carver Mihael Pogačnik and his workshop from Slovenske Konjice, and Jožef Straub of Graz, active in the Slovenian part of Styria, figures with two angels in the Grand Hall. Several figures of saints by the Maribor born Jožef Holzinger, trained by Straub, and by Veit Königer, demonstrate artistic excellence and belong to the Rococo style.

Baroque Motifs and Dramatic Light

Baroque painting expressed the principles of the vehement Catholic Revival. A powerful expression or dramatic emotions can be observed in illusionistic visions and apotheoses of saints, which glorified the victorious Catholic Church, while full-length portraits in grand manner and historical scenes extolled famous historical personages. 

The light-dark contrasts added a dramatic quality to Baroque motifs, underlined the volume of bodies and established spatial relationships. This sort of formal method, also called the chiaroscuro, was often required by the very content of the picture, since it hinted at semantic contradictions, such as day-night, good-bad, life-death, etc. We can identify mythological, biblical, or historical saviours, the carriers of light, in the pictures. 

Baroque also elevated landscapes, genre scenes, battles, images of animals, and still lifes to autonomous motifs. Those decorative genres were intended mainly for the embellishment and display of private quarters and residences of the powerful or the merely wealthy. There were numerous Italian and northern painters who became specialists in specific themes. It is often possible to read concealed symbolic messages in still lifes and genre scenes which open up a view into the daily routine and spiritual horizons of our ancestors. Behind the scenes, the motifs of the five senses, the four seasons, etc. can be sensed, or a reminder of the transience and vanity of life.
OwnerBirth - death
Martino Altomonte (Naples, 1657 – Vienna, 1745)
Anonymous -
Antonio Bellucci (Pieve di Soligo, 1654–1726)
Federiko Benković (Venice, 1677 – Gorizia, 1753)
Fortunat Bergant (Mekinje, Kamnik, 1721 − Ljubljana, 1769)
Domenico Brandi (Naples, 1683–1736)
Anton Cebej (Ajdovščina, 1722 – ?, after 1774)
Giambettino Cignaroli (Verona, 1706−1770)
Angelo Maria Crivelli (active 1st half 18. cent.)
Franz Ignaz Josef Flurer (Augsburg, 1688 – Graz, 1742)
Eustachius Gabriel (Unterschwarzach, Bad Waldsee, 1722 − Ljubljana, 1772)
Nicola Grassi (Formeaso di Zuglio, 1682 − Venice, 1748)
Janez Andrej Herrlein (Kleinbarsdorf, 1738 – Ljubljana, 1817)
Jožef Holzinger (Maribor, 1735−1797)
Lovro Janša (Breznica, Radovljica, 1749 − Vienna, 1812)
Franc Jelovšek (Mengeš, 1700 – Ljubljana, 1764)
Veit Königer (Sexten, 1729 – Graz, 1792)
Leopold Layer (Kranj, 1752−1828)
Anton Jožef Lerhinger (Rogatec, c. 1720 − ?, after 1792)
Hubert Maurer (Röttgen, 1738 – Vienna, 1818)
Valentin Metzinger (Saint−Avold, 1699 − Ljubljana, 1759)
Martin van Meytens the Younger (Stockholm, 1695 – Vienna, 1770)
Antonio Paroli (Gorizia, 1688–1768)
Giuseppe Antonio Petrini (Carona above Lake Lugano, 1677−c. 1755/1759)
Mihael Pogačnik (active 1st half 18th cent.)
Frančišek Karel Remb (Radovljica, 1675 – Vienna, 1718)
Karl Ludwig Reuling (active 3rd qr. 18th cent.)
Martin Johann Schmidt (Grafenwörth, 1718 − Stein an der Donau, 1801)
Jožef Straub (Wiesensteig, 1712 − Maribor, 1756)
Paul Troger (Welsberg, 1698 – Vienna, 1762)
Michelangelo Unterberger (Cavalese, 1695−1758)
Giuseppe Vicenzino (active 2nd half 17th cent.)
Januarius Zick (Munich, 1730 − Koblenz, 1797)
Giuseppe Zola (Brescia, 1672 – Ferrara, 1743)