RIHA Journal 0267 | 10 July 2021

Public Sculpture in Zagreb in the Second Half of the 19th Century

Typology and Style of Monuments in the Urban Gesamtkunstwerk "Green Horseshoe" (Zelena potkova)

Irena Kraševac

The Zagreb Green Horseshoe, or Zelena potkova in Croatian, is an original urban evocation of the Ringstraße in Vienna that represents an effort to create a characteristic urban space during the era of Historicism. This distinctive 19th-century urban project provided an appropriate setting for monuments and sculptural decoration. Squares, parks and main streets thus became a stage where contemporaries encountered monuments to personalities whose memory was to be preserved. The evocation of historical figures as a part of the collective memory is one of the fundamental ideas behind erecting monuments in any public place. Zagreb, as a national metropolis, favoured monuments dedicated to persons who recalled the nation’s glorious past and to highly regarded individuals, artists and poets. This paper focuses on thirteen monuments that were erected from 1866 to 1914 in this model part of the city and discusses issues related to the clients, the artists and the individuals to whom they were dedicated. The monuments that extend along the Zelena potkova can match the monuments on the Ringstraße, both examples are part of a common heritage from the reign of Franz Joseph I of Austria.

Urban planning and construction of the Zagreb Green Horseshoe (Zelena potkova)

[1] Zagreb took part in the rapid development of cities that followed the strategy of the Gründerzeit ("founders’ period"). In the second half of the 19th century, the city developed into a genuine Croatian national centre where modern civil society was to emerge thanks to the establishment of central cultural and scientific institutions and the increase in industrialization. Imperial Vienna was the model for other cities throughout the Monarchy, and many of them were designed as reduced versions of the cosmopolitan capital, while the tradition of educating architects in Vienna contributed to the creation of similar urban features.1 The contacts that smaller communities had with the Viennese culture, imitation thereof, and the position between centralist and autonomous governance marked the entire epoch during the reign of Franz Joseph I of Austria.2

[2] The famous Ringstraße in Vienna became synonymous with the social progress of the imperial age and was the architectural model that other cities of the Monarchy sought to transpose to their particular setting.Zagreb succeeded in coming close to the Vienna model thanks to the original urban planning of Zelena potkova, a parkway of eight squares forming a monumental frame for the central part of downtown Zagreb (Donji grad), as evident in the following names: Eastern Park (consisting of three park-squares, then named: Zrinski Square, Academy Square and Franz Joseph Square), Western Park (consisting of three park-squares, among which University Square), and Southern Park (consisting ofAnte Starčević Square and the Botanical Gardens). Zelena potkova thus became a kind of evocation of the Ringstraße and was an effort to create a representative urban space during the era of Historicism, that took the form of a continuous sequence of public cultural and educational institutions and bourgeois palaces.3

[3] If one wished to emphasize the comparability of these two urban projects, one could point to the fact that the history of the Vienna Ringstraße began with a grand opening on 1 May 1865, the year in which the first general regulatory framework for the expansion of the city was adopted in Zagreb to determine the location and layout of what was called New Square (later renamed Nikola Šubić Zrinski Square). It became the model and provided the scale for the subsequent comprehensive expansion that started south of the city’s main square, or Ban Jelačić Square, and was later re-affirmed in another regulatory framework adopted in 1887.

[4] Unlike Vienna, where the space for the new urban development was made by demolishing the former fortifications, the 19th-century expansion of Zagreb was planned as a city lying at the foot of the old fortified "upper" towns of Gradec and Kaptol, on undeveloped terrain that had been crossed by a railway line since 1862. This enabled proper orthogonal planning of streets and blocks following the principles of symmetry within a given square grid. While the Vienna Ring was planned and built as a dynastic and state project that aimed at the apotheosis of the Habsburg Empire and the glorification of the so-called upper class, Zelena potkova was exclusively a municipal project organised in a province of the Monarchy, with liberal citizens taking an active part as the exponents of modernization. However, the biggest difference between the urban planning in Vienna and in Zagreb is that the Vienna Ring is a continuous circular system of streets and alleys along which parks, palaces and representative public institutions are located, whereas in Zagreb "the green ornamented rug unfolds"4 in the form of a green belt with the buildings of public institutions in the fields of education and culture set in its very centre.5

[5] The regulatory basis of 1887 aligned the architectural and artistic expression of the epoch with the postulates developed by Austrian architect and urban theorist Camillo Sitte, who regarded the project of a city as a work of art whereby the aesthetic design incorporates horticulture, architecture and sculpture to equal extents to create a Gesamtkunstwerk.6 The completeness and aesthetic unity of the newly planned part of the city was ensured by Milan Lenuci (1849–1924), head of the city construction office, who from 1891 to 1894 worked on the detailed regulation of all the squares that formed part of the park frame and thanks to whom Zelena potkova, the largest Gesamtkunstwerk of Croatian urban planning, was realized (Fig. 1).7

1 Plan of the City of Zagreb, 1911. Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb (photograph © Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb)

[6] Despite the political ties to Budapest that resulted from the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the culture of Zagreb mostly reflected the Viennese model, as is shown by the fact that Viennese architects were invited to participate in the design of some of the key institutions: Friedrich Schmidt proposed a reconstruction of the Cathedral and designed the building for the Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Fellner & Helmer studio designed the building of the Croatian National Theatre and oversaw the reconstruction of the Art Pavilion, and Otto Hofer designed Ljudevit Vranyczany’s palace. Herman(n) Bollé, Schmidt’s assistant for construction projects outside Vienna, remained in Zagreb to become the leading architect of Croatian Historicism, completed numerous projects and initiated educational programmes in the arts, crafts and construction.8 In this situation, Zagreb also came close to the stylistic pluralism of the Ringstraßenstil with elements of Gothic Revival, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Baroque and Jugendstil, as a result of the universal cultural and urban ideals of the late 19th century.

[7] The period that started with the passing of the first regulatory framework in 1865 and ended with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 was marked by a major urban transformation of the city and a construction boom supported by both private and state investment. Zelena potkova is ultimately a result of the efforts of several generations of Zagreb urban planners, builders, city authorities and investors, who created a representative social space as an aesthetic framework for the Gründerzeit and the culture of Historicism, which can be considered an original mutation of the Vienna Ring. As a part of this endeavour, there was also a need for comprehensive planning of the urban fabric that included the landscaping of parks, the erection of monuments and the addition of other urban inventory.

Public sculptures in Zagreb from 1866 to 1914 extending along the Zelena potkova

[8] Previous publications on the Zelena potkova in Zagreb mention individual monuments erected in the area, which, in the history of Croatian art, have been examined mostly in the context of their sculptors’ comprehensive art production. Although 19th-century sculpture is a very significant field, so far Croatian art history has produced only one synthetic publication on the topic.9 This paper presents a more detailed study taking into account the overall urban planning and the cultural and political context. It attempts to answer questions raised at the 2018 international workshop in Ljubljana titled "Vienna as a Sculptural Centre in the 'Long 19th Century'": Who commissioned the sculpture? Who was allowed to design a monument, when and where? Who was supposed to be honoured and by whom?10

[9] The impetus for this research came from the publications by Gerhardt Kapner, Maria Pötzl-Malikova and Walter Krause on the sculpture of the Ringstraße.11 I will try to further expand the links between Zagreb and Vienna by explaining the typology and stylistic characteristics of the sculptures in question, the provenance and place of education of individual artists, and the circumstances of private or public commissions and acquisitions of artworks. To this end, I will extend the line of Zelena potkova from its spatial starting point, i.e. Ban Jelačić Square, to the intersection of Frankopanska and Ilica Streets and the widening of the junction of Mesnička Street, thus completing the outline of the city‘s development, along which we note the erection of thirteen monuments – most dedicated to particular historical persons, some decorative sculptures – in the period from 1866 to 1914 (Fig. 2).12

2 Plan of the Zelena potkova with marked positions of monuments: 1 Anton Dominik Fernkorn, Ban Josip Jelačić, 1866 | 2 Ivan Rendić, Andrija Medulić, 1878 | 3 Ivan Rendić, Juraj Julije Klović, 1879 | 4 Ivan Rendić, Krsto Frankopan, 1884 | 5 Ivan Rendić, Nikola Jurišić, 1886 | 6 Rudolf Valdec, Ivan Maružarić, 1911 | 7 Rudolf Valdec, Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski, 1911 | 8 Toma Rosandić, Ruđer Bošković, 1910 | 9 Ivan Rendić, August Šenoa, 1893 | 10 Anton Dominik Fernkorn, Saint George Slaying the Dragon, 1854 | 11 Ivan Rendić, Petar Preradović, 1895 | 12 Ivan Meštrović, The Well of Life, 1906 | 13 Ivan Rendić, Andrija Kačić Miošić, 1891 (graphic design © Boris Dundović, Institute of Art History, Zagreb).

[10] The monument is one of the most significant and demanding tasks of 19th-century sculpture, reflecting a specific class manifestation or state representation of a political conviction or opinion.13 The evocation of historical figures as a part of collective memory is one of the fundamental ideas behind the erection of monuments in a public place. The art of the second half of the 19th century shifted from mostly ecclesiastical and private spheres of the nobility to the public domain. As a result, city committees were set up to erect monuments while relevant decisions were taken by the city government. Squares, parks and main streets thus became stages where contemporaries encountered important historical figures who should be remembered for the future. Zagreb, as a national metropolis, favoured monuments dedicated to persons who evoked the nation’s glorious past and to highly regarded individuals.

The monument in the main square: Ban Josip Jelačić by Anton Dominik Fernkorn

[11] In terms of space and chronology, the sequence begins with the monument to Ban Josip Jelačić, which was solemnly unveiled in 1866 as the first secular monument in Zagreb.14 This monumental memorial, ten meters high, bears a bronze equestrian statue created by Anton Dominik Fernkorn (Fig. 3).15

3 Anton Dominik Fernkorn, Ban Josip Jelačić, 1866. Photographer: Ivan Standl, 1895 (photograph © Museum of the City of Zagreb)

Its history began with the decision made by the city government in 1854 to erect a monument to the meritorious Ban in the city’s main square during his lifetime. The square has borne his name since 1848. At that time, it was the only space that could take such a huge monument, centrally positioned on the vast square.16 The development of Croatia has been strongly influenced by Ban Josip Jelačić Bužimski (1801–1859), who played a key role in the revolution of 1848 and the defence of the homeland against Hungarian hegemony. His commitment brought about the democratic and social changes in Croatia that had already spread across Europe after the French Revolution, such as the abolition of the feudal system of social classes and serfdom, introduction of civil society institutions, strengthening of the country’s economic independence, and creation of preconditions for overall national and cultural development.

[12] The construction of the monument was entrusted to Anton Dominik Fernkorn (1813–1878), one of the best-known sculptors of the time, who worked in Vienna where he headed an arts foundry that was able to accept such demanding commissions. Fernkorn’s monumental bronze statue matches the size of its immediate predecessors, the equestrian monuments to Archduke Charles, executed in 1859–1860, and to Prince Eugene of Savoy, realized in 1860–1865, that face each other on Heldenplatz, in front of the Hofburg in Vienna. The monuments to Archduke Charles and Prince Eugene were commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph I, whereas the monument to Ban Jelačić was commissioned by what was called the Committee on the Erection of Monuments, which, by order of Ban Josip Šokčević (in office from 1860 to 1867), published a public call for proposals. Voluntary contributions for the monument were collected throughout the country, and the description of the official unveiling ceremony on 17 December 1866 explicitly emphasized: "The people erected this monument to the Croatian Ban, not to an Austrian general".17 Vatroslav Donegani (1836–1899) also responded to the public call for proposals but the Committee opted for Fernkorn’s design, probably because of his reputation and the expected quality of the work of an established, mature artist, in contrast to Donegani, who was a young Croatian sculptor at the start of his career.18

[13] The erection of the monument just two years before the Croatian-Hungarian Settlement of 1868 took place at the very last possible minute: In view of the political constellation of Croatia and Hungary the monument to Ban Jelačić might not have been approved later on as it represented opposition to Hungarian nationalism. The orientation of the monument, popularly interpreted as "a threat directed at Hungary", is differently described in a letter that the sculptor Fernkorn wrote in 1865 to the Committee on the Erection of Monuments, in which he advised that the monument should face towards the most vibrant part of the city. At that time, this meant the "upper town" of Gradec and Kaptol bearing in mind that the southern part of the city was made up mostly of fields and meadows.

[14] The plinth of the monument, made from Moslavina granite, was constructed by Janko Jambrišak and Franjo Klein, builders from Zagreb. Its stability was clearly demonstrated by the fact that the monument suffered no major damage during the earthquake of 9 November 1880. The space directly around the monument is bordered by decorative wrought-iron fencing, as a sort of a barrier between the 'untouchable' statue and the citizens, a characteristic feature of monuments of that period. This setting survived until 1909 when the square was levelled and paved, and the plinth was raised by two granite steps in accordance with architect Edo Schön’s design, thus creating a perfectly elegant aesthetic solution at the dawn of modernity.

[15] With the erection of the monument to Ban Jelačić, Zagreb literally began to follow the central ideas of urbanism and urban development of the 19th century, since the new buildings erected around the monument adapted to its monumental dimensions. The existing modest, classicist, Biedermeier two-storey commercial buildings were gradually replaced by historicist and secessionist multi-storey buildings (Figs. 4-5).

4 The unveiling of the monument to Ban Josip Jelačić in Zagreb on 17 December 1866. Photographer: Franjo Pommer, 1866 (photograph © Museum of the City of Zagreb)

5 Ban Jelačić Square, Zagreb, 1911. Vintage postcard (photograph © Museum of the City of Zagreb)

Monuments to great figures of Croatian history in the park at Nikola Šubić Zrinski Square

[16] While Ban Jelačić Square, due to its position, became the central city square and an important intersection of all urban communication (historically, it had a utilitarian function as the city’s largest marketplace), the planning of new squares and parks along the north-south route and their design in the form of a greenbelt resulted in a completely new and representative urban space for a rather different purpose, i.e. a place intended for leisure and pastimes (promenade, music pavilion) as well as relaxation (park greenery).

[17] After the first regulatory framework of 1865, the former livestock market in the immediate vicinity of Ban Jelačić Square was transformed into a new representative square. It was the idea of the city planner Rupert Melkus to turn it into a park-square.19 In 1866, the year in which the monument to Ban Josip Jelačić was erected, the idea emerged of erecting a monument dedicated to Nikola Šubić Zrinski to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Szighet.20 Novi trg (New Square) was later transformed and named after him (Zrinski Square, or Zrinjevac). However, the monument was never realized.21 In the context of the national enthusiasm borne on the wave of the Illyrian Revival (ca. 1835–1874), which was already losing something of its vigour, and shortly before the Croatian-Hungarian Settlement (1868), Zagreb celebrated the military heroes of Croatian history, such as Nikola Šubić Zrinski and Ban Josip Jelačić.

[18] Zrinski Square was laid out between 1870 and 1874. The parterre of the park with flowerbeds was designed according to a project by Rudolph Siebeck, director of the city parks in Vienna.22 Subsequently, a more concrete proposal for the sculptural decoration of the square was made. The Academy of Sciences and Arts, built in the Neo-Renaissance style to a design by Friedrich Schmidt, was the first building positioned on the central axis of the greenbelt of the Eastern Park. It raised the question of communication with the northern section of Zrinski Square. The proposal of 1874 to build "a museum under the open sky" which would recall the nation’s glorious past, put forward by writer Ladislav (Lacko) Mrazović, was reintroduced. Subsequently, publicist Zlatko Halper outlined his vision of a "Pantheon of the Croatian People".23 The proposal to create a memorial setting in the park was supplemented by the idea to place a series of busts of distinguished Croats along the paths, modelled after Monte Pincio in Rome, a well-known example of classicist park landscaping with statues. The idea was welcomed by the public:

And we want to have what the Romans have on the Aventine [sic], the Padovans in the Prà della Valle, and the Florentines in the courtyard of the Uffizi. We want to have a whole gallery of eminent Croats, a living example for us and our children.24

The notion of the Pantheon, a temple dedicated to all deities, points to the sacralization of ideals, and is entirely in the spirit of the culture and art of Historicism. However, the idea was never fully realized, but remained only in fragments.

[19] Monuments were usually erected on the occasion of the anniversaries of important historical figures or in relation to various efforts to improve the city. Matica hrvatska (Matrix Croatica), the influential Croatian cultural institution founded in 1842,25 made a proposal for the erection of a marble bust of miniaturist and illuminator Julije Klović (Giulio Clovio) to mark the 300th anniversary of his death in 1878, and suggested that the sculptor Ivan Rendić (1849–1932) be commissioned to make the monument.26 At the same time, Rendić also made available a bust of painter Andrija Medulić (Andrea Schiavone), which would create a logical symmetrical whole, and suggested that the busts be placed at the corner of one of the sections of the park.27 The city government accepted his proposal, and Rupert Melkus defined the position for the two monuments in 1878. He placed them facing the Academy building, on the rounded corners of the existing greenbelt, next to the central alley.28 The discussion about the location of the busts also involved the Viennese architect Friedrich Schmidt, who had a personal interest in decorating the immediate environment of the building he had designed. He liked the idea of symmetrically placing the busts in a semicircle opposite the Academy building (Fig. 6).29

6 Zrinski Square, Zagreb, 1903. Vintage postcard, photographer: Rudolf Mosinger (photograph © Museum of the City of Zagreb)

[20] The monuments to Andrija Medulić and Julije Klović were unveiled in 1879, only one day apart. Both were made by Trieste-based sculptor Ivan Rendić who at that time settled briefly in Zagreb and opened an atelier with the aim of securing further commissions.30 These first two busts were dedicated to famous painters who were originally from the Croatian Adriatic coast, but worked in Italy where they were known as the Schiavoni. Their fame in their homeland grew during the era of the national revival and they became particularly popular thanks to a publication entitled Slovnik umjetnikah jugoslavenskih [Dictionary of South-Slavic Artists], edited and published by Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski in 1858.31 The miniature painter Julije Klović (Giulio Clovio, 1498–1578) was born in Grižana in the Croatian Littoral (Hrvatsko primorje), worked in Italy and Hungary, and was known as the "Michelangelo of miniature painting". Andrija Medulić (Andrea Meldolla, or Andrea Schiavone), painter and graphic artist (around 1500–1563), was born in Šibenik, educated in the circle of Titian, and lived and worked mainly in Venice. He was one of the first landscape painters in Italian painting. The sculptor Rendić was able to immediately 'react' to Matica hrvatska’s proposal, which was supported by the City Council, and offered two finished busts of the Croatian artists in question. Rendić had made the plaster model of Andrija Medulić in Florence in 1875 on his own initiative – a self-portrait of Medulić in the Uffizi Gallery served as a model32 – and the marble bust in 1878.

[21] The unveilings took place on 8 April (Medulić) and 9 April 1879 (Klović) to commemorate these two eminent artists separately and to honour and pay respect to each one individually. The occasion was certainly an extraordinary event for Zagreb, since these two monuments were the first public monuments to be erected after the one dedicated to Ban Josip Jelačić, and all the cultural institutions involved, Matica hrvatska, the Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the City Government, participated.33 Made of Carrara marble, the busts were placed on identical, simply profiled square plinths. Each bust is 85 cm high, and the total height of the monument is 280 cm (Figs. 6a and 6b).

6a Ivan Rendić, Andrija Medulić (Andrea Schiavone), 1878, Zrinski Square, Eastern Park of Zelena potkova, Zagreb. Photo taken by Paolo Mofardin, 2020 (photograph © Institute of Art History, Zagreb)

6b Ivan Rendić, Juraj Julije Klović (Giorgio Giulio Clovio), 1879, Zrinski Square, Eastern Park of Zelena potkova, Zagreb. Photo taken by Paolo Mofardin, 2020 (photograph © Institute of Art History, Zagreb)

[22] The City Government sought to continue the series of busts of Renaissance personalities and commissioned new sculptures from Rendić.34 The busts of two warriors were thus added to the series: Krsto Frankopan (1482–1527), Ban and military commander, who participated in the defence against the Ottomans in 1525 and died during the siege of Varaždin, and Nikola Jurišić (1490–1545), baron and military commander of Kőszeg, who successfully resisted the Ottoman siege of his town and thus prevented the Ottoman advance towards Vienna.

[23] In October 1881, Rendić reported from Trieste to the Zagreb City Council that he had completed the "commissioned statues of Frankopan and Jurišić for Zrinski Square". At the session of the City Council it was decided that they should be installed as soon as possible. However, they were only delivered in 1883 and the bust of Krsto Frankopan was erected in May 1884 (Fig. 6c).35 Although Rendić managed to finish the marble bust of Nikola Jurišić in 1881, due to some irregularities in the marble that had emerged during the carving phase, he had to start again using new stone, so that the bust was completed and erected only in 1886 (Fig. 6d).36

6c Ivan Rendić, Krsto Frankopan, 1884, Zrinski Square, Eastern Park of Zelena potkova, Zagreb. Photo taken by Paolo Mofardin, 2020 (photograph © Institute of Art History, Zagreb)