Museum of Arts and Crafts: Permanent Collection

The Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb

The permanent display at the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb extends over three floors at more than 2000 m²  of museum space and includes about 3000 exhibits. The displayed objects illustrate the shift of stylistic periods from Gothic to graphic and product design of the period from 1950s. The objects are part of museum's diverse collections of ceramics, clocks and watches, glass, graphic design, ivory, furniture, metal, musical instruments, painted leather, paintings, photography, bookbinding, product design, sculptures, textiles, fashion accessories and varia. The historical review of artistic styles is complemented with independent thematic units, such as religious painting, sculpture and metal, devotionalia, and Judaica. 

Gothic
In the first room of the permanent display, objects of fine and applied arts created during the period from the 14th to the 16th century are on view; however, only some of them actually bear the characteristics of the formal lanugage of the Gothic. While in some parts of Europe, primarily in Italy, the features of the Gothic had already been replaced with those of the Renaissance as early as the 15th century, in Gaermany, England they lasted until the early or indeed deep into the 16th century. For applied art objects, elements of Gothic vocabulary are often used as decorative details. Unlike the church furniture, which followed the development of the style in parallel with the architecture, in the making of secular furniture, they appeared only during the 14th century. In the domain of furniture design, this is the period in which production and reorganisation within the guilds was advanced, leading to specialisation within the carpentry trade. As well as decorative motifs taken from architecture – the pointed arches, rosettes, tracery, trefoils, quatrefoils, plant motifs – a style of ornamentation particularly characteristic of furniture and adapted to the traits of the material was developed. Relatively few items of furniture have been preserved from the late medieval period, making it not very easy to give a complete illustration of the way in which secular interiors of the period were furnished. A chest is on display – the most widespread type of Gothic furniture; as well as is primary function for the storage of clothing, when equipped with cushions it also was used for seating and sometimes would be used as a table and was an essential part of any woman’s dowry. 

The sculptural works on show, carved in wood, polychromed and gilt, are fragments of bygone altar assemblages of the Late Gothic, the origins of which are related to the circle of alpine and subalpine areas of the 15th and early 16th centuries. The relief Meeting of Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate is the sculptural work of a master craftsman called Hans from the Styrian town of Judenburg.

Renaissance
In the room devoted to the art of the Renaissance representative items from the collections of furniture, textile, painting, glass, ceramics and metalwork created in Mediterranean and central European countries as well as in Croatia between the 15th and the 17th centuries are on show. In this period, when opulent noblemen became the most important clients for and patrons of the arts and crafts, the construction and furnishing of palaces helped the carpenter’s trade to flourish. The museum's furniture collection contains a much larger number of items belonging to the Renaissance and the Mannerist styles than to the Gothic. These objects have various places of origin; the majority were made in Italy, wellspring of the Renaissance, i.e. in its regions, which had their own specific forms and decorative motifs. The exhibited chair and armchair, typical types of furniture for seating, only hint at the richness of formal variants characteristic of this period. Along with the table, which was no longer of the folding version, and the chest, they comprised the basic equipment of an interior. The remainder of Europe, which accepted the new style only from the 16th century, developed a specific stylistic and formal vocabulary that was already in possession of all the features of Mannerism. In this period, new types of furniture arose – the studiolo cabinet and the cabinet, which flourished in the 17th century. 

The glass objects on show illustrate the diversity of form, workmanship and lavish decorative manners characteristic of this age of the flowering of glassmaking. The leading production centre was Venice, and Murano island with its centuries-long glassmaking tradition was for almost three centuries the model for other glass centres.

The exhibited salver is one of ten Hispano-Moresque salvers from the legacy of the Catalan painter Mariano Jose Bernardo Fortuny y Carbó bought at an auction in Paris for the holdings of the future Museum of Arts and Crafts as early as 1875. The simple shape of the salver with its convex central part shows it to be inspired by the forms of metal vessels. The decoration of ceramics with lustre glaze was brought to Europe in the 14th century by Moorish potters, and the most important centres of production were the Spanish cities of Malaga, Valencia and Aragon. The tradition of producing ware with decorated lustre glaze has been preserved in Spain until this day. From the 16th century, this decorative technique was taken over by Italian ceramics makers in workshops in Gubbio, Deruta and Caffagiollo.

BAROQUE
The striving to give an impression of opulence, monumentality and dynamism – features of the art of the Baroque in the 17th and 18th centuries – is illustrated by a selection from the holdings of the Museum in two rooms of the permanent display. Among the objects displayed, the most numerous are specimens from the furniture collection. Owing to the use of new technologies and the availability of costly materials, in this period an exceptional diversity of types and forms was produced. An object of prestigious decorative appeal, often the result of virtuoso craftsmen of various trades, the cabinet was to set an important mark on the production of furniture in the 17th century. Cabinets with numerous (secret) drawers were made of costly materials, were opulently decorated, in line with their contents, which made them genuine works of art.

Balthasar van den Bosche gained a reputation with representations of studio interiors and art collector galleries, a popular genre of the Flemish Baroque. These paintings often depict imaginary collections of artworks of that time.

Balthasar van den Bosche gained a reputation with representations of studio interiors and art collector galleries, a popular genre of the Flemish Baroque. These paintings often depict imaginary collections of artworks of that time.

The long Venetian tradition and the superiority of its artistic and technical treatment in the production of glass had a lot of impact on the whole of Europe in the 17th century. In the beginning the European works imitated the Venetian patterns, but gradually developed individual features. Many of them produced excellent pieces, which can sometimes be distinguished form real Murano glass only with great difficulty. The winged glass made in the Venetian fashion illustrates how the virtuosity of making characteristic of Venetian glassworks has been master, but it also possesses features typical of the glassworks of northern Europe (proportions thickness of glass, manner of decoration...).

Rococo
Rococo is a period that gave a new meaning to the idea of amenities, and the main characteristics of the style – decorativeness, appeal, intricacy of form – can be seen in interior decoration as well. From the spaces of ceremony, social life moved into smaller and more intimate salons, and the lightness and refinement of the furnishing of interiors corresponded to the intellectual mood of the society of the time. Light tones prevailed in the interiors; console tables and chests of drawers, above which there were mirrors, are integral parts of the wall surfaces. Seating furniture and tables could be freely grouped in the space as required. New types of seating were developed, which along with innovations in a constructive sense also became more comfortable, as illustrated by the exhibited armchair (à la reine) upholstered in silk brocade of the time. In the 18th century, a time of great discoveries and fascination with the Far East, Europe discovered the secret (the Arcanum) of producing the most precious kind of ceramic ware – porcelain. The first manufactory was set up in Meissen in 1710 and then in Vienna in 1718; by the end of the 18th century the French royal manufactory had been founded in France, the imperial manufactory in St Petersburg as well as English, Italian and numerous German porcelain manufactories. European crowned heads and aristocrats collected china items as signs of their status, decorated their living spaces with them or kept them in special rooms – porcelain cabinets. The bureau cabinet on show that is meant for displaying china is a more modest version of the private space for this purpose.

The Zwischen-goldgläser, glasses with double sides and inserted engraved gold leaf, implied perfection in the making of the two glasses, one of which had to fit perfectly into the other.

A tapestry from the Four Elements series, produced after cartoons by Ludwig van Schoor in the Pieter van der Heck manufactory represents an allegory of two elements – Air and Water. Air is represented by the figure of a strong, bearded man in the foreground sitting on the coast. Water is presented in the form of a bounteous female figure seated on a vessel spilling water. In the middle ground, on the surface of the sea, Neptune’s group is shown. Juno floats on clouds, surrounded with children’s heads symbolising the four main winds.

This clock, made after a model by the French sculptor Clodion, is a very rare artefact which commemorates the first flight of the balloon constructed in 1783 by the Montgolfier brothers.

The pastoral world, as metaphor of free nature, music, entertainment and dance inspired many of the writers and painters of Rococo. The pastoral life was also a theme for the entertainment of high society and such motifs are to be found in relief cartouches on stoves.

NEOCLASSICISM
As against the preciousness and decorativeness of the Rococo, Neoclassicism marks a return to the stricter forms of classical antiquity. In the narrow sense it is the style of the last decades of the 18th century, but Antique models were the basis of formal treatment in the styles of the first decades of the 19th century too – of Empire and Biedermeier. The furniture illustrates the main characteristics of neoclassic form – refined simplicity and elegant calm, symmetry, and architectural formal principles with clear and austere articulation of the structural elements. The ornamental repertoire consists of Antique motifs (meander, rosette, ovulus, garland, vase, horn of plenty, laurel leaf...) that come up in carved or inlaid decorations, motifs on fabrics and forms for mountings. Among the examples of classical furnishing in the Museum collection there are some specimens produced in Croatia. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the number of local craftsmen and of those who had come from various parts of the Habsburg Empire and Germany had increased. The obligatory journeys made by the newly qualified journeymen and the founding of drawing schools in which in the last decades of the 18th century the pupils learned from common models contributed to the spread of the new style. 

Some floor and standing clocks from this period have musical mechanisms with cylinders and pins, the music storage medium, incorporated in them. The music for them was written by composers such as C. P. E. Bach, W. A. Mozart and in particular, Franz Joseph Haydn.

NEOCLASSICISM / EMPIRE
Glass production in the Neoclassicism period is characterised by simplification of form and decoration. Decorations on glass include gathered ribbons, spirals, flowers and meanders, portraits, masks or wreaths with fruit. Of the glassware on show, a glass of Johann Joseph Mildner with a double medallion on the surface is of particular interest.

Among the pieces of silverwork exhibited there are examples that bear the pure stylistic marks of the Neoclassicism of the 18th century, as well as some with the classicising formal tendencies of the period of early Biedermeier. Such classicising features are featured in works of domestic silversmiths Henrick Wolgemuth, Vinko Lehman, Antonius Hubinek and Juraj Kunić, done during the first quarter of the 19th century. From this period relatively a large number of specimens of silver produced in Croatia are preserved, and they tell of the high level of work of the goldsmithing and silversmithing crafts in the domestic setting. This was much helped by an edict of the Habsburg Empire according to which certain craftsmen, including goldsmiths and silversmiths, had to attend drawing classes as a supplement to their education as artisans.

EMPIRE
The whole of the art of the Empire period was designed to legitimate Napoleon and his power. The spread of the style was helped by Napoleon’s campaigns but also by the increased exports of products and books of samples and models to European countries. Empire influences in Croatia are only episodic, and are visible in miniature portrait painting and in the fine crafts. There are few examples of Empire furnishing in the Museum’s collection and they mostly bear the formal features of the Viennese variant of the style, which can be seen in the more copious employment of carved and inlaid decoration, without any marked monumentality. In the shaping of furniture the refined elegance of early Neoclassicism is abandoned, and grandeur and monumentality tend to be stressed. The smooth surfaces of the furnishing were most often veneered with expensive mahogany, and the main decorative elements are mounts of gilt bronze. Decorative motifs inspired by the art of Ancient Egypt and Imperial Rome prevail. This influence is obvious in the typology of the furniture: bedside tables in the shape of pyramids or columns (somno, so called), and chaises longues of the Rćcamier type with the characteristic curved sides, clearly deriving from Roman Antiquity. 

The harp is the work of Jean Henri Naderman, famed Parisian craftsman, instrument builder in the service of Marie Antoinette. It is of the type of frame harp with a single row of pedals.
It was once owned by Dr Josip Široki in Virje; he took a doctorate in musicology in Vienna, and had his study of Croatian folk music printed in Paris, where he could well have come into the possession of the harp.

The harp is the work of Jean Henri Naderman, famed Parisian craftsman, instrument builder in the service of Marie Antoinette. It is of the type of frame harp with a single row of pedals.
It was once owned by Dr Josip Široki in Virje; he took a doctorate in musicology in Vienna, and had his study of Croatian folk music printed in Paris, where he could well have come into the possession of the harp.

The salt cellar is composed of salt dish on three small legs on a three armed base. The legs in the form of twisted and intertwined snakes are of characteristic Empire form. A pair of salt cellars was made by domestic gold- and silversmith Juran Kunić (Georgius Kunich von Sonnenburg), a consummate craftsman whose products, shaped mostly in the spirit of Neoclassicism, were at a very high level in terms of craft and art. He arrived in Varaždin (Croatia) in 1796, and opened his own workshopin in which he employed many assistants. He was concerned with the making of chalices and liturgical vessels, secular silverware, and the making and repair of gold jewellery.

BIEDERMEIER
The stylistic expression of the rising middle class, Biedermeier appeared soon after the Napoleonic Wars and the political turmoil in the countries of central Europe between 1815 and 1848. In style and with respect to the spirit of the time Biedermeier was best expressed in interior decoration and the decor of burgher interiors. Applied art, particularly the furnishing of the time, in forms and decorative elements, drew on Neoclassicism. Although in its essence opposed to the monumental and grandiloquent character of Empire design, Biedermeier furniture did borrow some of the decorative motifs of Empire. In contrast, bric-a-brac of glass, china and paper is of a sentimental nature and is given an entirely unpretentious form. North west Croatia, at that time politically, economically and geographically related to the Habsburg Empire, was mainly focused on Vienna – the centre of production of Biedermeier furniture. 

Particularly valuable for the national history of fine craft are the displayed wardrobe and drawing room suite of one of the most important domestic craftsmen, Antun Goger, who worked in Varaždin. The wardrobe was his masterpiece of 1833 and one of the very few signed and dated pieces of furniture in Croatia. A characteristic of Biedermeier is the use of secret drawers in the bases of the columns. Also, the front panel hides a door behind which there is a system of seven drawers

HISTORICISM
The term Historicism covers a wide range of neo-styles or revivalist forms that come into existence in the 19th century, based on the appropriation of formal or decorative elements from earlier stylistic periods. Traditional forms of objects of applied arts are adapted to the needs of the modern time, and the development of technology and the transition from handwork to machine production enabled greater and cheaper production. Quite often ersatz and new materials and techniques are employed, through which the appearance of high cost is achieved. In forms of objects of fine craft it is quite common to find the simultaneous presence of elements of quite different styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo. For example, the elements of decoration for this clock were taken from the Gothic repertoire, while the composition and form draw to a great extent on the Neoclassical tradition. 

Typically for Historicism, there are many new formal versions of sofa and armchair. One such new type is the Rundsofa from this set, with a central plan disposition, with four seats spread petal-wise around a central cylindrical upholstered vertical serving as a back.

THE CRAFTS SCHOOL 
In the part of the permanent display devoted to the Crafts School, which had an important role in the development of the fine crafts in Croatia, works of pupils who attended the carpentry, ceramics and locksmith departments are presented. Some of the items are done after drawings of Herman Bollé, the founder of the school.
ART NOUVEAU
In Croatia the term Secession is used to refer to the new artistic movement the borderlines of which are marked by the Vienna Secession of 1898 and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. In various countries of Europe it was called by different styles – Art Nouveau, Jugendstil and Liberty, for instance. In essence, the style had the ambition to split the young from the old and to create a new young art. In the shaping of living space, practicality was stressed, together with comfort, fineness of execution and simplicity, and the style appeared in two variants – floral and geometrical.

The black and white coffee service designed by Tomislav Krizman, Croatian painter, printmaker and designer. Modelling his attempts on Wiener Werkstätte, Krizman designed use objects of glass, metal and ceramics, fashion accessories and jewellery. In 1910 Krizman founded an art school of his own in his studio, and taught fine crafts, leaving the actual production to well-known craft workshops and factories. An example of this kind of approach is the coffee set, decorated to his design, while the actual porcelain was produced in Bohemia to designs of artists from the workshops of Vienna. Apart from geometrical treatment, Krizman often used the motif of floral tendrils, a kind of interpretation of folk ornamentation.

Antonija Krasnik (Lovinac, 1874 – Zagreb, 1956), painter and sculptress, a versatile artist with an international reputation. She attended the Kunstgewerbeschule of Koloman Moser in Vienna, where she attracted attention due to high quality of her works, already much appreciated and reproduced in printed references to the work of the school. Glass objects after her designs shown at the museum's permanent display were produced by the well-known Viennese glassworks Bakalowitz und Söhne.

The Art Nouveau period in clothing design continued the trends from the last decade of the 19th century. Lace, trimmings, embroidery and ribbons decorated the dresses of the period. An impression of elegance is achieved with the contrast of light yellowish silk decorated with lace and decorations of black velvety bands and black velvet belt. The especially constructed corset in this dress emphasises the bust and rear, and makes the abdomen flat, making the famed S-line body, sans ventre, as it was called.

ART DÉCO 
The name Art Déco – one of the stylistic trends between the two wars – was derived from the name of the great world exhibition the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925. Numerous Croatian artists showed their works at the Paris exhibition: in the pavilion of the Kingdom of the SCS, designed by Zagreb architect Stjepan Hribar, the display was designed by Tomislav Krizman. Prominent Croatian artists including Joza Kljaković, Zlatko Šulentić, Marijan Trepše and Vladimir Becić took part in the exterior and interior decoration of the pavilion. A large number of exhibits from the Paris show as well as the architectural drawings of the national pavilion and the set-up of the theatre section were brought to the Museum of Arts and Crafts on the ending of the exposition, and are still kept in its collections today.

The branches of the watch narrow forming an elongated triangle reminiscent of the top of New York's Chrysler skyscraper. Women's wristwatches of this period were extremely small, rectangularly shaped, decorated with precious stones, semi-precious stones, and glass.

The branches of the watch narrow forming an elongated triangle reminiscent of the top of New York's Chrysler skyscraper. Women's wristwatches of this period were extremely small, rectangularly shaped, decorated with precious stones, semi-precious stones, and glass.

The lamp is the work of Ivo Kerdić (1881 – 1953), leading Croatian sculptor and medal maker, very active between the wars. This lamp was made just before it was presented at the Paris exhibition in 1925 where it was part of the Croatian section in the pavilion of the Kingdom of the SCS. The lamp of cast bronze is formed sculpturally in the spirit of the interwar aesthetics and reflects Kerdić’s sculpture style in that it shows his interest in shaping the human figure and in a summary treatment of the surface.

Ljubo Babić (Jastrebarsko, 1890 – Zagreb, 1974), painter and art historian. He studied painting at the Munich academy under A. Jank and F. von Stuck. While still a student, he directed a part of his vast creative energy to theatre and set design, trying his hand at the Künstlertheater in the city. On his return to Zagreb, he carried on with this line of activity, developing it to its acme during the 1920s and 1930s. The Museum of Arts and Crafts keeps a small part of the fascinating set design work of Babić (18 drawings, gouaches and collages), including the set and costume design sketches for the ballet Shades, created together with Božidar Širola.
In 1925, Babić received a Grand Prix for his set design oeuvre at the Paris Exposition.

The armchair was produced in the Crafts School after a design by Srećko Sabljak for the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937.

PRODUCT DESIGN 1950-1970
The collection of graphic and product design was formed as a distinct unit in the 1950s at the time when the Museum assumed the role of one of the key promoters of design in Croatia. Product design is presented through three groups of products – chairs, glass and ceramics – that, thanks to mass production and the impact on everyday life, are among the most common tasks of designers. It was the chair, and its close kin the armchair, that in the 20th century became the designer’s laboratory for testing out innovations in the use of new materials and technologies and hence it went through more transformations than any other item of furniture. The Le Corbusier armchair of 1929 was among the first to use bent steel tubes as a structural element, while Aalto’s armchair no. 41 (1932) of bent laminated veneers marked a turning point in the design of wooden furniture. Three armchairs by leading Croatian designers and architects Bernardo Bernardi, Radovan Nikšić and Ferdo Rosić are examples of high quality Croatian design after World War II. These specimens of furniture however did not, unluckily, get into industrial production; these were either prototypes or one-off pieces made for particular interiors. 

Croatian architect Radovan Nikšić (1920 - 1987) designed the folding ship's deck chair with a mobile backrest.

GRAPHIC DESIGN
A selection of twenty posters by Ivan Picelj, Boris Bućan, Mihalo Arsovski and Vjenceslav Richter created in Croatia from 1950 to 1990 presents the graphic design collection at the museum's permanent display. In the seventies, a kind of duel was fought by Mihajlo Arsovski and Boris Bućan in their typographically rich, radical and witty exhibition and theatre posters on the streets of Zagreb. In the following decade, Bućan’s conceptual poster based mainly on photography was replaced by a highly expressive and painterly idiom. An important segment of the graphic design collection consists of posters meant for the promotion of the Museum of Arts and Crafts itself designed by the leading Croatian artists in this field. On the occasion of the opening of the new permanent display of 1962, in a series of posters Ivan Picelj thought up the visual identity for the Museum; a poster for the ninetieth anniversary of the founding of the Museum was designed by Mihajlo Arsovski, while the Museum’s centenary, in 1980, was commemorated in a poster authored by Boris Bućan.

In the 1960s the Gallery of Contemporary Art, as it then was, in Zagreb organised five international New Tendencies exhibitions that in their themes were a continuation of the work of EXAT 51 and also brought out the importance of experimental visual research and industrial aesthetics. Ivan Picelj (1924 – 2011) was an active participant at these shows and a designer of posters for the event: the poster for New Tendencies 4 (1969) is a response to the overriding theme of the fourth exhibition (information theory, computer aesthetics).

JUDAICA
The Judaic Collection of the Museum of Arts and Crafts is one of the few collections of Jewish religious objects both existing in Croatia today and open to the public. These are objects that are primarily related to rites in the synagogue or at home, or are of a profane character and yet are related to Jewish culture and tradition from the 17th to the 20th century. 

An opulent chanukiah, with eight boats for burning oil and a ninth servant, or Shamash located in front, made of silver. It belongs to the type that is at base designed on the model of the seven stemmed candlestick or menorah. The circular base is carried by three feet shaped like boughs that turn into C volutes. On the base a symbolic hillock rises, on which there are various plants and high palms, from which two branches grow, that is, two horizontal arms on which there are four little oil vessels each. In the front, at the base of the palm on the base of the lamp is the figure of a rampant lion the symbolic meaning of which is deeply rooted in Jewish iconography.

RELIGIOUS SCULPTURE
The museum collection of religious sculpture with artefacts in a temporal sequence from the first half of the 15th to the first decades of the 20th century makes up one of the biggest and most important sets of its kind in Croatia.

The extant statues and parts of altar architecture from the demolished altar of St Ladislav and St Mary from the apses of the aisles of Zagreb Cathedral have been preserved, combined into a single unit and shown under a common patrocinium. The author of these statues is a master from Ljubljana Ivan Komersteiner, who moved to Zagreb at the end of the 17th century.

Credits: Story

Petra Milovac, curator
Zoran Svrtan, IT

Photographs: Srećko Budek, Vedran Benović
Texts and research adapted from the catalogue Museum of Ars and Crafts Zagreb 1880-2010 : guide, Zagreb, 2011. ISBN 978-953-7641-15-3

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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