Editors: Matej Klemenčič, Katra Meke, Ksenija Škarić
Text by: Zsuzsanna Boda, Saša Dolinšek, Paul-Bernhard Eipper, Elena Holzhausen, Rupert Karbacher, Katja Kavkler, Eva Klein, Matej Klemenčič, Martin Mannewitz, Andreas Müller, Martina Ožanić, Valentina Pavlič, Christina Pichler, Michael Preiss, Dagmar Probst, Christine Rabensteiner, Lea Rechenauer, Judith Schekulin, Ingeborg Schemper-Sparholz, Margit Stadlober, Nina Stainer, Julia Strobl, Ksenija Škarić, Martina Wolff Zubović
Languages: Croatian, German, Croatian, Slovenian
The international project Tracing the Art of the Straub Family studied the heritage of the Straub family of sculptors. Croatian Conservation Institute (project leader), Bavarian State Department of Monuments and Sites, Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, and Universities of Ljubljana and Graz participated in its implementation together with associate researchers from other heritage, religious, scientific and educational institutions. The project was co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
The project explored the history and art of several generations of the Straub family. The work of five brothers from the third generation that grew up in Wiesensteig was particularly interesting. In the 18th century, they were leading sculptors in several cities in present-day Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. When their birth town, and their father’s and uncle’s carpentry workshops, became too small, they set off in search of work. In time, they became leading sculptors in several cities in Central Europe: Munich, Graz, Maribor and Bad Radkersburg. The youngest brother, Franz Anton Straub, lived and worked in Zagreb and, judging by the altars and pulpits we still have today, he was the most productive sculptor in the Diocese of Zagreb.
The largest artwork to emerge from Franz Anton Straub’s workshop is the monumental high altar from the parish church of St. Michael the Archangel in Velika Ludina. Even though the altar completely fills the apse of the sanctuary (914 x 817 cm), the openings behind the sculptures of Sts. Zechariah and Joachim, bordered by rocaille lace, make it seem light and airy.
According to an inscription hidden behind the tabernacle, it was completed in 1762 when Petar Bursić was the parish priest. Several documents mention it somewhat earlier, in 1761, when the report from the canonical visitation describes the newly built altar in detail, and lists the statues of the saints. One of the mentioned sculptures is that of St. Lucy, which has unfortunately been lost. According to another inscription about the altar’s history, it was renovated in 1853 when Ivan Miković was the parish priest. At the same time, the present painting of St. Michael the Archangel by Johann Beyer from Graz was placed on the altar. The third renovation that left its mark was in 1906 when the entire sacral inventory and walls were repainted by the Slovenian painter and altar builder Petar Rutar.
Croatian Conservation Institute has been carrying out extensive conservation on the altar since 2003. Over the years, one can see how, starting from the top, the original polychromy of vivid colours with a multitude of gold and silver gilding, and glazing has been emerging as if from behind a descending veil. The most spectacular sight is the enormous curtain drawn back in the middle to show the Blessed Virgin in glory, illuminated from the back by light shining through the round window. The curtain is completely covered in silver gilding with shining green glazing, making it look like silk with gleaming folds. The same form, but on a smaller scale, is repeated on the tabernacle which is the only item carved by Franz Anton Straub with a preserved canopy.