1698 – 1762
The Assumption of Mary; a Bozzetto for the Ceiling Fresco above the High Altar at the Cathedral of Brixen (Bressanone).
This is a preparatory oil sketch for the fresco decoration above the high altar at Brixen (or Bressanone) Cathedral, Tyrol. The original Gothic-Romanesque cathedral, dating from 980, suffered 2 fires and was rebuilt in 1745-1754 to a splendid Baroque design with frescoes by Paul Troger (its central ceiling fresco, The Adoration of the Lamb, spans some 200m²). The high altar by Theodor Benedetti is one of Tyrol’s most important Baroque altars.
Depicting the Assumption of Mary, our work shows Troger's mature style from around 1748-50 when the artist was at the height of his creative powers. The undertaking to design and execute extensive fresco decorations in this impressive space was to be his last major commission (the fresco of The Glory of Heaven in Maria Dreieichen Church from 1752 is thought to be his final work). According to Tintelnot, Troger presented his Imperial patron with two different designs for the stucco that was to act as a framework for his frescoes: the lavish one, in which "every arch, frieze and angle should be covered in paint, according to the latest, most exceedingly prosperous fashion" and the alternative version (cheaper by 200 Fl.), which would frame the frescoes with relatively plain stucco as illustrated in our sketch. Ultimately, the more expensive solution was chosen to fully represent the power and wealth of the Holy Roman Empire and its bishop of the time.
A similar sketch to our work is in the collection of Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich. Whilst still illustrating the "plainer" stucco surrounding, the Bavarian version uses brighter colours throughout and includes more detail of the stucco design. In our version the focus is predominantly on the biblical motif, which suggests that Troger reworked his sketches at different points in the negotiation process.
Old inventory labels on the stretcher and the frame of our picture repeatably show the name Balanzo, with the addition of the (collection) number 66. These refer, most likely, to the collection of Llorenç Balanzo i Pons, Marquès de Balanzó (1860-1927), a writer, translator and scholar of theological literature who obtained the title of marquis by Papal decree in 1921 for his Christian virtues and religious work.
Interestingly, the gilt frame, circa 1920's, on our picture bears a label from the firm of Decorador Renart that traded from premises in Diputación 271, Barcelona. Joaquim Renart i García (1879-1961) is known to have begun his career in his father's shop as a gilder and draughtsman. He was to become an important figure in Barcelona, sitting on many comittees in the fields of culture and the arts. He built up a considerable art collection for himself and his own drawings and papers are kept in the archives of Museu del Disseny, Barcelona's Design Museum.
Captain Stewart (according to a labels on the reverse);
Probably the collection of Marquès de Balanzó;
Private Collection, Barcelona
Tintelnot, Hans, 'Die Barocke Fresko Malerei in Deutschland', ed. F. Bruckmann, Munich, 1952, (ref. the Brixen fresco pp 97-98, the finished work depicted in situ illus. 57).