Maulbertsch and Adolph von Freenthal: „Kalkmalerei in Fresko“ and „quadri riportati“

Excursions to Mikulov and Kroměříž, April 28-29, 2022

by: Michaela Šeferisová Loudová
photos: Martin Mádl

Two important works of the Baroque painting in Moravia located in Mikulov (Nikolsburg) and in Kroměříž (Kremsier) are under restoration. The ceiling paintings depicting scenes from the St John the Baptist legend in the church of the Piarists in Mikulov were created by Franz Anton Maulbertsch (1724–1796) around 1757.

These frescoes belong to the Maulbertsch´s oeuvre of the late 50s that is characterised by richness of colours, intense light effects and shape expressionism. The Birth of St John the Baptist over the music tribune and the next two painted fields on the vault of church nave are completely restored.

Mikulov, Church of St. John Baptist, ceiling paintings by Franz Anton Maulbertch, 1750s

The team of restorers (Peter Stirber, Romana Balcarová, Markéta Pavlíková, Lenka Helfertová, Radomír Surma) works currently on the central scene presenting the Most Holy Trinity. This painting demonstrates the technique of ceiling painting called “Kalkmalerei in Fresco” in the sources of the period which uses strong lime layers providing a very special light effect for the final painting.

Mikulov, Church of St. John Baptist, restorers under the ceiling paintings by Franz Anton Maulbertch of 1750s

Due to the destruction of the secco parts of painting the expression of figures (especially in the centre of the scene  – Jesus, the God Father) disappeared, and now the way of how to do final retouches is discussed; these demanding task will be carried out during May 2022.

In the chateaux Kroměříž, former residence of the bishop of Olomouc, painting decoration in the Assembly Hall (dining room) is conserved. The author of three monumental oil paintings on canvas fixed on the vault was Franz Adolph of Freenthal (1721–1771). They were executed in 1769–1772 for the Olomouc´ bishop Maximilian of Hamilton. Paintings were damaged by humidity, on several places the oil layer of paintings became loose. The restorer Monika Wolfová (Pastiglia – Renovation and Restoration of Monuments) works on the first painting made from 12 canvas pieces presenting the Wedding of Thetis and Three Graces. Freenthal´s paintings represent the alternative way how to decorate rooms and halls of aristocratic residences (named by a term “Quadro riportato”), because of their dimensions they have no known parallels in the Central European painting of 18th century.

Under the painting by Franz Adolph von Frenthal, Assembly Hall, chateau Kroměříž

Both trips took place within the frame of the project Ceiling Painting between Theory and Praxis (The Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Department of Art History of the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno and the Studio of Wall Painting Restoration of the Faculty of Restoration, University of Pardubice), the second one was linked to lectures about the early modern painting and culture on the Department of Art History at the Masaryk University in Brno. During the guide through the Bishop´s residence in Kroměříž students could visit all spaces of the chateaux decorated with ceiling paintings (sala terrena – Paolo Pagani, libraries and chapel – Josef Stern, the Hall of Vassals – Franz Anton Maulbertsch), debated their themes and stylistic aspects and the historical context of their origin as well; in conclusion the general iconological concept of the representative halls of the chateaux was discussed.

Chateau Kroměříž, Assembly Hall (former dining room) restoration of monumental oil painting by Franz Adolph von Frenthal, 1769–1772

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