2019 / 2 / 12

The Third General Meeting in Bavaria

The Bavarian State Department of Monuments and Sites hosted the Third general meetingof the project entitled Tracing the Art of the Straub Family which included the study visits of the expert group for technical research as well as the experts for Johann Baptist Straub. The team of the Institute headed by Rupert Karbacher organized a coordinating meeting, expert presentations, a meeting of the editorial board of the monograph as well as field rounds on January 22nd and 23rd 2019.

The event taking place in the venues of the Institute was opened by Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Architekt Mathias Pfeil the conservator general who expressed his pleasure for his institute‘s participation in this project focusing on rococo, a topic so crucial for Bavaria and the sculpture of Johann Baptist Straub and his brothers.

After having been acquainted with the prepared program, the performed investigations were presented: those by the colleagues from the Institute of Art History at the University of Graz; those by Christina Pichler, BA BA MA, doctoral student at the Institute for Art History, who presented the results of her collaboration with prof. Viktor Kaufmann from the Institute of Surveying at the Technical school of Graz documenting seven artworks from Graz by Philipp Jakob Straub. The sculptures and groups of sculptures situated high and hardly within reach were measured and photographed using hoisting devices. Based on a great many photographs taken from different angles video animations were executed. Using different lighting and post-production procedures, it was possible to read the preserved parts of the very damaged inscription at the pedestal of the sculpture of St Leonard. A new member of the team, the art history student Michael Preiß presented the results of archive research that he had carried out in Bad Radkersburg priory archives where he found some data concerning the life of the sculptor Johann Georg Straub junior and his family.

On the following day expert presentations were offered by our colleagues from Bavaria: the restorer Rupert Karbacher and Lea Rechenauer, MA student of conservation science, Stuttgart. In order to get better acquainted with the style and technical properties of Johann Baptist Straub‘ work, the Bavarian team led by Rupert Karbacher chose for its conservation-restoration research three temporally distant works by the above sculptor, ranging from his early artworks at the monastery church of Virgin Mary‘s Ascension in Dießen to the altar of St George in Bichl dating from his mature period and the main altar of the filial chapel in München-Bogenhausen executed in his older years. In the course of their conservation-restoration research they noticed a series of details ranging from the back side of the sculpture and bridging the cracks to alterations of faces performed on the spot and the technical and artistic features of the polychromy. It was interesting to note that the sculptor – although he was not able to influence the effect of the polychromy – owing to sketches was evidently familiar with its concept; that is possible to infer from the surfaces (that were supposed to be gilded) he molded by carving. A deep insight into Straub‘s manner of work enabled the distinction between the parts carved by Johann Baptist and those performed by joiners or other sculptors of the same workshop.

The editorial board of the monograph at its meeting focused on the visual features of the book and the form and contents of the introductory chapters and catalog. The particulars concerning the sources and literature as well as the quality of visual representation were discussed.

The sojourn of project participants in the Bavarian State Department of Monuments and Sites was completed by a visit to restoration workshops led by conservators-restorers Judith Schekulin and Andreas Müller. Three particularly interesting projects were presented to them. Andreas Müller, conservator-restorer, and Julia Brandt MA, acquainted them with conservation-restoration research on a rare preserved example of carved canopy from the 18th century church in Rott am Inn on which was, among other things, performed stratigraphic research on four wooden polychrome angel heads. The textile restorer MA Anna Szubert presented her works on a unique textile set from the church of the Castle in Neufraunhofen. Particularly valuable wooden gothic sculptures of Virgin Mary and child were often in 17th and 18th century clothed in genuine garments to which wigs, crowns and scepters were added. However, those 18th century garments were only rarely preserved. What makes it even more sensational and a real restoration challenge is the fact that the set was carried out in the rare and precious technique of straw-broidery. The third interesting project presented by the conservator- restorer Maria Seeberg was a rare iconographic representation of Christ on a grapevine cross from the church St John the Baptist in Igling.

The schedule in Bavaria was enriched by visits to Cuvilliés theatre, the church and Asam House in Munich as well as the Benedictine monastery in Ottobeuren. The Court theatre, odrered by Maximilian III Joseph, was built between 1751 and 1753 based on the design by Françoisa de Cuvilliés; it was decorated by sculptures of Johann Baptist Straub and Johann Joachim Dietrich. According to Max Tillmann, PhD, art historian, who shared with the group the history of the theatre still in function today, the original interior was reconstructed and restored in another wing of the Residence after the building was destroyed in World War II.

Dr. Myriam Wagner-Heisig introduced us into the strange world of brothers Asam complex consisting of Saint Nipomo’s church with a crypt and residential premises including a workshop. Brothers Egid Quirin and Cosmas Damian built up their ambitious residence according their own, often rather weird, ideas and equipped it outside and inside with plastering, wall paintings, altar and sculptures.

The participants of the TrArS project were offered the opportunity of becoming familiar with Bavarian rococo in its most ambitious and most monumental manifestation in the Benedictine monastery in Ottobeuren, where they were received by pater Rupert Prusinovsky. Johannes Amann, conservator-restorer who has form years been in charge of renovating the interior and the artworks of this huge complex, expounded the challenges of long-lasting efforts to restore the plastering and artworks.