Časopis ARS 39 (2006) 2
Zabudnutý mecén barokového umenia stredoslovenských banských miest Jozef Andrej Wenzl barón von Sternbach[Forgotten Donator of the Baroque Art in the Area of Central Slovakian Mining Towns Joseph Andreas Wenzl the Count of Sternbach]
This short study opens a problem of alternative donatorship in the area of Central Slovakian Mining Towns in the 20s and 30s of the 18th century. First of all, the town magistracies occupied very important position, although rarely the name of concrete person appears in the archival material. Till now was hidden and unknown also donatorship of Joseph Andreas Wenzl the Count of Sternbach, Head of the Main Royal Chamber Office in Banská Štavnica (Schemnitz, Selmecbánya) between 1723 – 1734, who transferred influences from Tyrolean Baroque art through several artworks to Slovakia. Regarding our interest in the specifics and alternative models of donatorship, we can operate with a very interesting finding: against the traditional role of town magistracies in the "Free Royal Mining Towns" with old Medieval privileges, notable interfering the competencies of parish, the artworks was ordered and supported by the high imperial official representative. Joseph Andreas Wenzl the Count of Sternbach came up with an idea to represent not only himself as an agent of official ideology, but he got out from anonymity as an individual donator who his confession, education, social rank and success in his career confirmed and manifested by the fine art.
As his most important donations we should count the main altar in the church of St. Catherine in Banská Štiavnica from 1727, which replaced the older one described by Matthias Bel and connected with MS Master, the main and two lateral altars of the parish church of Holy Virgin in Nová Baňa (Königsberg, Újbánya) from 1726, the interior decoration of the former Jesuit church in Banská Štiavnica from 1726 – 1729. The Count of Sternbach supported the building and interior decoration of small chapel in Kremnické Bane (Johannesberg, Jánoshegy) and a public statue of St. John of Nepomuk in front of the Royal Chamber house in Kremnica (Kremnitz, Körmöcbánya), and there are many records of his donatorship to the Jesuits in Banská Štiavnica, Franciscan in Kremnica and Hieronymites in Štiavnické Bane (Siegelsberg, Hegybánya). Some of these artworks were realized by the Tyrolean artists - painter Johann Georg Dominikus Grasmair and sculptor Michael Anton Räsner who finally decided to settle in the area of Central Slovakian Mining Towns.
The period of the second, third and forth decade of the 18th century in Baroque art in Central Slovakian Mining Towns is very strange, especially thanks to the fact that most of the artworks from this period were very quickly overlayed by the Late Baroque Gesamtkunstwerks. The missing archival research, which could shed some light on this question, is sometimes dismissed with a vague general statement: "After the historically eventful but, in the field of art, fruitless 17th century, the sculptural production of the 18th century not only produced the high achievements of Baroque art in Eastern Slovakia but it also became one of the most fruitful periods in the entire history of Slovak art." These words of Vladimír Beskid, in the synthetic publication devoted to Slovak Baroque from 1998 published by Slovak National Gallery, are cited also by Ján Papco, author of a further chapter, Baroque in Central Slovakian Mining Towns. In his opinion the situation in this area was analogical with Eastern Slovakia: a miserable period of stagnation of architectural and artistic development in the 17th century dragged on until the 4th decade of the next century, when after the arrival of the Viennese painter Anton Schmidt and the sculptor Dyonisius Staneti from Silesia, the Baroque revitalisation of Central Slovakia began.
Art historical investigation in recent years very clearly shows us how over-simplified this opinion is and how many flaws it conceals. Actually, there are now no reasons for such a constructed polarity of Baroque art in Central Slovakian Mining Towns: step by step in the archival material the names of many other artists appear - painters and sculptors, and among them Tyrolean painter Johann Georg Dominikus Grasmair and sculptor Michael Anton Räsner with their supporter and donator Joseph Andreas Wenzl the Count of Sternbach.