2018 / 12 / 14

Study visit to Vienna

Partners from Slovenia, Germany, Austria and Croatia met on 27 and 28 November in Vienna for a study visit and a joint working meeting of the technical expert group and expert group for research into the work of Johann Baptist Straub. The gathering was admirably organised by Julia Strobl, MA, Professor Ingeborg Schemper, PhD, and Elena Holzhausen, MA. The partners had the honour of being joined by Professor Peter Steiner, PhD, one of the most distinguished experts on Johann Baptist Straub.

On the first day visits were organised to churches in Vienna in which there are works attributed to either Johann Baptist Straub or his contemporaries, so as to broaden knowledge about the sculpture of that time. The first church they visited was the Parish and Monastery Church of St Augustine (Augustinerkirche) that keeps some of the church inventory from the former Benedictine Church of Our Lady of Monteserrato (Schwarzspanierkirche) in Vienna, which is attributed to Johann Baptist Straub (pews in the nave, parts of the side altars – today on the attics of both the side altars at the triumphal arch, and the sculpture of a playing angel on the organ). An interesting debate developed about the pews and their original colour, as well as about the changes that must certainly have been made when they were dismantled and accommodated in the new space. There are two sculptures in the church, of St Ambrose and St Augustine, which Professor Schemper attributed to Lorenzo Mattielli, one of the most important Italian sculptors working in Vienna in the 18th century.

The restorer and lecturer Thomas Mahr joined the group and described the conservation and restoration work performed on these two sculptures in 2013/14. The sculptures are made by stone and have a surface of stucco with polished and matt areas.

The tour continued in the Church of St Peter (Peterskirche) where proposed attributions for the sculptural group of the Martyrdom of St John of Nepomuk to Lorenzo Mattielli and the possibility of a cooperation with Johann Baptist Straub were discussed, with precious remarks by Professor Steiner.

In the next Church of Santa Maria della Neve (Minoritenkirche) the partners had the opportunity of seeing four sculptures (which Professor Schemper attributed to Lorenzo Mattielli) and four paintings (altarpieces on the side altars, now hanging on the nave walls) originating from the Schwarzspanierkirche.

After a discussion, the study visits for that day were completed in the Parish Church of St Michael (Michaelskirche). Here the group was welcomed by restorer Monika Mager, MA, who described the conservation and restoration work in progress in the side Werdenbergerkapelle.

She described problems related to the final presentation of the chapel, the altar of the Nativity from the 17th century with a precious painting of Franz Anton Maulbertsch and the sculptural group The Entombment (Franz Käßmann, 1819).

The afternoon hours were reserved for meetings at the University of Vienna, Department of Art History, which began with Julia Strobl's presentation of new knowledge and open issues, followed by a working meeting about the upcoming report, catalogue units and texts for the monograph.

Next day the project members visited the Parish and Pilgrimage Church of Mariabrunn, where they were welcomed by Father Walter Pröglhof, Ernst Schödl, PhD, and Manfred Blamauer. Particular emphasis was placed on the high altar whose attribution has not been fully clarified, which led to a discussion about the time when it was made and possible masters.

The visits were concluded in the Parish Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Laxenburg, where there is another work originating from the Schwarzspanierkirche in Vienna, a pulpit attributed to Johann Baptist Straub from between 1730 and 1734. There was a very interesting and stimulating discussion about its original appearance (whether it had originally been fully gilded or polycromed) and about the iconographic programme, with comparisons with the pulpits in Diessen (Johann Baptist Straub, 1738 - 40) and Ehrenhausen (Philipp Jakob Straub, about 1753).

This opened the question about the possible participation of Philipp Jakob in his older brother's workshop when making this work.

Martina Ožanić

Photographs: Miroslav Pavličić