Tuesday, March 25, 2014

106. Archaeologically Speaking

The Split-Dalmatia Region - the central southern part of Croatia - has a long history dating way back to the first millennium BC, so to have a bit of a dig into this history I took myself on an excursion to the Split Archaeological Museum.

As the oldest museum institution in Croatia, the Museum was founded in 1820 by the decree of the Dalmatian government in Zadar. The original museum building was erected in 1821 next to the eastern walls of Diocletian's Palace ( see previous blog ), but soon became too small to house the growing number of monuments, so in 1914 construction on the present building commenced.

Under the guidance of Catholic Priest Father Frano Bulic - a keen archaeologist, historian, and conservator, who, since 1884 had been working as a field researcher, conservator and writer as well as the director of the Split Museum - work on establishing the Museum soon came to a halt because of the Great War - the new building was not to open its doors to the public until 1922. 

The Museum today houses some 150,000 artifacts - ranging in date from prehistoric times, the period of Greek colonization of the Adriatic, the Roman and Early Christian periods to the early Middle Ages and the period of Croatian popular rulers.


Marble Head of Flora - c 40AD

 Roman-era clay oil lamps

Metal oil lamps ...

Of special interest is the collection of stone inscriptions from Salona (around 6000) and the collections of Graeco-Hellenistic ceramic objects, Roman glass, ancient clay lamps (around 1600), bone and metal articles, as well as the collection of gems (the largest in the country). In addition, the museum houses on extensive collection of ancient and medieval coins (over 70,000) and a rich library with an archive.

The usual displays in museums consist of almost "perfect and intact" pieces - here at the Split Museum there is an area adjacent to the main building that houses thousands of "relics" of artifacts that have been rescued, but presumably are not good enough to be housed in-doors or to find their way to other museums ...I found this collection of almost neglected and dusty antiquity fascinating ...

Roman funereal urns from a Gladiator Cemetery - 2nd century

Early Christian Sarcophagus - 3rd century

 detail ... The Good Shepherd

Mosaic Tiled floor

Roman headstone ...

Roman Sarcophagus - 2nd century

detail ...

 Many of these dusty and shelved artworks are just gorgeous in their ancient and damaged "incompleteness" ... and have an almost contemporary sculptural look about them ... and here they will sit, lie and stand gathering even more dust as the years pass, because they are not good enough to grace the pristine marbled halls of museums around the world ... 

... what a beautiful piece of art ...

Dozens of Amphorae - discovered during submarine archaeological research - most of which are still encrusted with barnacles and corals …

As well as these pieces on display there is a huge yard behind the Museum out of access to the public with thousands of bits and pieces - rescued but obviously of no significance for display ... 

Brutus ... on guard 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

105. Gallery Ivan Mestrovic

On another crisp brilliantly clear day in Split I wandered around the harbour foreshore to a superb gallery dedicated to the work of the Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic ( 1883 - 1962 ). 

 Ivan Mestrovic - Vlado Bukovac - oils - 1908

 Street entrance to property ...

The Gallery preserves and presents to the public the most significant works of Meštrović, and is in itself an art monument. The permanent collection includes design works in plaster and finished works in bronze, marble and wood, as well as several of the artist's drawings and paintings.


Built on the site of a Renaissance summer villa overlooking the Adriatic Sea , the Gallery building and grounds were constructed following original plans by Meštrović himself, and were designed to fulfill three purposes: as a family home, working studio and exhibition space. 

Ivan Meštrović bought this piece of land on the Marian peninsula - a fifteen minute walk along the harbour shore west of Split - in the 1920s and the villa was built between 1931 and 1939.

The Meštrović family stayed in the villa from the summer of 1932 until 1941, when Meštrović left for Zagreb. In 1952, Ivan Meštrović donated the property, along with three others, and 132 of his art works to the Republic of Croatia, making possible the founding of this magnificent Gallery. 

In front of the building is an outdoor sculpture park where 8 bronze sculptures are exhibited.





The Gallery's mission, as defined in the first Statute (6 May 1958) is the "protection, collection, expert and scholarly treatment and presentation of the museum holdings and popularization of Ivan Meštrović's works and name". 

  Gallery foyer ...

 Madonna and Children - marble - 1922

The Gallery's  permanent display totals 86 sculptures and reliefs in marble, bronze, or wood, 3 oil paintings, and 15 drawings. The exhibition covers two floors of the building. On the ground floor, the central hall provides a striking entrance with large, mainly marble statues corresponding with the stone façade, in a formal arrangement. 

The dining room on the west side retains the authentic character of the artist's home with Meštrović's furniture, paintings, and bronze portraits of the family members. 

 dining room ...

 detail ...

 Contemplation - marble - 1923

Mother Pledging her Child - marble - 1927

The gallery was closed to the public for many years, partly due to its rather dilapidated condition, but also because of the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s. However after an extensive renovation, the new permanent display was opened on 18 May 1998. 

The ground floor galleries house Mestrovic's marble and stone sculptures 

  Female Figure - marble - 1923

Girl Dancer - marble - 1912

 Reverie - stone - 1927

  In Despair - marble - 1927

 Olga Mestrovic - marble - 1925

Roman Pieta - life-size plaster model - 1943

Adam and Eve - timber - 1941

detail ..

detail ...

The Upstairs Galleries house Mestrovic's Bronzes ...

Job - 1946

Female Nude - 1924

Vestal Virgin - 1917

Head of a Child - 1905

Little Girl Singing - 1906

The Katunaric Family - 1906

Girl Dancer - detail - 1927

Woman with her arm set akimbo - 1927

... and back down the stairs to the entrance hall ..

Stone relief on front terrace wall ...

Stone relief on front terrace wall ...

Front pathway leading down to the Adriatic Sea

In the early part of the 1900’s his work quickly became popular, even with the likes of Auguste Rodin who once said that " Meštrović is the greatest phenomenon among sculptors and even greater than he was " ... ( !!! ) - and with an exhibition in 1924 he became the first living person to have a one man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

What a wonderful legacy for the people of Split - a beautiful gallery set in a perfect  location - and visited on a stunning day - and nobody else in the Gallery to annoy me !!! ...