2018 / 4 / 10

Documenting the Straub artworks in Slovenia

In the last weeks a part of the Slovenian team, consisting of Saša Dolinšek (conservator-restorer, Restoration Centre IPCHS), Valentin Benedik (art historian, documentation, Restoration Centre IPCHS), Valentina Pavlič (art historian, University of Ljubljana) and Katra Meke (art historian, University of Ljubljana), has been documenting the works of Joseph Straub in the present-day Slovenian territory.

Despite rough weather conditions and low temperatures, the team has managed to review, study and document more than a half of works attributed to Joseph Straub. In addition to Štanjel, a several-day fieldwork took place in Styrian region, where most of the sculptor’s works are located. We have visited Ptuj (Church of St George, Parish and Minorite Church of St Peter and Paul), Podlehnik (Church of St Mary), Spodnja Polskava (Parish Church of St Stephen), Črešnjevec (Parish Church of St Michael), Makole (Parish Church of St Andrew), Laporje (Parish Church of St Philip and St Jacob), Kočno (Parish church of St Giles), Stoperce (Parish Church of St Anthony the Great), Rogatec (Parish Church of St Bartholomew), Sladka Gora (Parish Church of St Mary and St Margaret the Virgin), Celje (St Mary’s Church), Mozirje (Parish Church of St George), Dravograd (Parish Church of St John the Evangelist), Selnica ob Dravi (Parish Church of St Margaret the Virgin).

The particular sculptural work located in mentioned places was merely ascribed to Joseph Straub, in most cases without extensive and detailed studies. Therefore, the pioneer work of Sergej Vrišer should be reviewed and the particular works re-examined in their primary context.

The collaboration and interconnection between experts from different fields (art history, conservation, restoration) is considered to be vital and one of the main purposes of our project. Following the example of so called “technical art history” it presents an interdisciplinary scientific approach. Being practiced abroad for some time as the most appropriate, correct and professional method, it has been increasingly establishing itself in our country in the last decade. Together with art historical and chemical research, combined with data acquisition of previous restoration and conservation interventions, it allows us to determine a key starting-point in achieving the most accurate results and interpretation as well as the most appropriate restoration approach (Mateja Neža SITAR, Spomeniškovarstvena problematika restavriranja Quaglieve poslikave na oboku ljubljanske stolnice (doctoral dissertation, University of Ljubljana), Ljubljana 2016, pp. 341–361.).

In addition to art historical analysis and observations of the multilayer repolychromy visible to the naked eye, some of the samples were taken for further laboratory analysis. Most of the Straub’s sculptures were repainted several times, but the situation in some cases, due to the bad conditions of the artworks, require immediate or at least quick interventions. The poor state of both Straub statues in Štanjel demanded an urgent action and they were therefore transported to the Restoration Centre IPCHS. Similarly, some of the artworks infected by fungus and wood insects (e.g. Podlehnik, Laporje) require attention in the shortest time possible.

In the parish church in Makole the team also had the chance to observe the newly restored altar with the statues attributed to Joseph Straub.

Since the state of the artworks (surface dirt, multilayered repolychromy, insect infection) in several cases appears bad, we should consider including the Straub heritage in the future national restoration programme.