Art Déco

elegance and harmony of form
(1917 – 1922)

Gratitude that good had triumphed over evil and the feeling of optimism after the end of the war were to prevail in the new and elegant forms in the many depictions of Virgin and Child. In conjunction with them, motifs of women and angels with musical instruments appeared, rendered in a reduced visual language with a deal of elegance and grace. As he said himself, these works were created as “an expression of a desire for and feeling of harmony between us and all things”.

Virgin with Child

Cannes, 1916 – 1917
bronze, 52 x 39.5 x 31 cm
owned by the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb, inv. no. AMZ-148

During 1917 in Cannes, Ivan Meštrović did ten sculptures on the theme of Madonna and Child, which, according to Dalibor Prančević (2017: 146), show the way in which the sculptor “discarded a detailed physiognomic description, in favour of the condensation of visual forms, built with emphasised, taut curves”. At issue here is a deliberated variation of content and form that reposes very largely on the sculptor’s understanding of the codes of Byzantine and medieval art. The artist updates the tradition with a delicate and almost melodious stylisation. It was particularly apt for his depictions of music, in which he optimistically adumbrates the end of the Great War and the feeling of new hope and optimism.
(B. V.)

Virgin with Child (long neck and head)

Cannes, 1916 – 1917
bronze, 106 x 52 x 50 cm
owned by the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb, inv. no. AMZ-147

Head of Angel with Wings

Rome, 1917 – 1918
bronze, 37 x 26 x 30 cm
owned by the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb, inv. no. AMZ-299

Head of Angel with Wings and the relief The Angel Gabriel constitute the essence of Meštrović’s synthesis of form, a form devoid of any superfluous details or narrative elements that would work to the detriment of meditative composure. There is a similar principle, harmonised with a certain geometrical treatment of the composition and with restrained decorativeness, in the sculpture Woman at Prayer.
(B. V.)

The Angel Gabriel

1919
bronze, 88.5 x 60 x 23 cm
owned by the Meštrović Gallery in Split, inv. no. GMS-651

Woman at Prayer

Cannes, 1917
bronze, 50 x 43.5 x 34 cm
owned by the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb, inv. no. AMZ-263

Head of Moses

Rome, 1918
marble, 61 x 41 x 34 cm
owned by the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb, inv. no. AMZ-209

Michelangelo’s figure and work were of exceptional importance to Meštrović, not only when art was concerned, but also for the way of thinking about religion, philosophy and life per se. Meštrović’s attitude to Michelangelo is particularly interesting in an associative relation. In various phases of his work, our artist did sculptures and drawings that have Moses as their subject. Not a single work is a literal recapitulation of Michelangelo’s handling of it, but there is certainly an aspiration for the force that this Old Testament prophet possesses. Head of Moses, created in 1918 in Rome, is a specific variation of Meštrović’s heroic morphology, but in this case the synecdochic presentation through the slashes of the compact mass the idea of Michelangelo’s terribilità resonates.
(B. V.)

Angel with Flute

1918 – 1921
walnut, 140.5 x 24 x 14 cm
owned by the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb, inv. no. AMZ-247

The elongated Angel with Flute, with its refined stylisation, in which Meštrović combined a religious impulse with an interest in music, has all the features of Art Déco sculptures. The sculptor presented the same kind of ephebic angel, with an identical stance, in the Račić Mausoleum in Cavtat, also known as the chapel of Our Lady of Angels in Cavtat (1920-1922). This is an outstanding example of a Gesamtkunstwerk, and demonstrates how much the artist was at home in Art Déco trends. The architectural decoration of the building, for which in 1925 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris Meštrović won the Grand Prix, is replete with references to his Platonic relationship with the Czech artist Růžena Zatkova, and the relationship with Marija Banac who, with members of the family, is buried in the mausoleum. Some other works, like Apostle with Book, in which a subtle Art Déco stylisation is applied, are also connected with this project.
(B. V.)

Apostle with Book

1922 – 1923
bronze, 160 x 87 x 35 cm
owned by the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb, inv. no. AMZ-203