Christmas 2011 - Set
Christmas 2011 - Set for only GBP £0.39
“The Birth of Jesus”, fresco detail from the Church of Mary’s Assumption in the national sanctuary in Marija Bistrica; Authors: Željko Hegedušić and Eugen Kokot, 2009 There are Christmases that resurrect. Such is the case with the depiction of Christmas on this year’s Croatian postage stamp. It occupies the central part of the fresco “The Birth of Jesus” in the church of Marija Bistrica. The history of that fresco and other masterpieces in the sanctuary of Marija Bistrica is among the most important and most interesting chapters of Croatian art, culture and history in general in the 20th century, equally as Marija Bistrica is among the most important sites of Croatian sacral geography. In the hard times of the Second World War and Independent State of Croatia, Marija Bistrica was a bright place of engagement of the Zagreb archbishop, later cardinal, blessed Alojzije Stepinac, in saving valuable creations by figurative artists who as pronounced leftists or simply just as cannon fodder were jeopardized by the regime of the Independent State of Croatia. In the middle of the War Stepinac conceived the renewal of Marija Bistrica as a possibility to help people, of whom many were very different by their standpoints, their biographies, and their figurative expression, but all of whom represented the highest level of Croatian culture that had to be preserved. What a difference there is between the venture of Stepinac and many today’s engagements like e.g. that of the church in Udbina! Stepinac entrusted the leadership of the renewal to a wonderful, free man, free architect and freemason Alexander Freudenreich, showing thus the levels of his tolerance. The painter’s domain was entrusted to Krsto Hegedušić and the sculptor’s one to Ivo Kerdić. Hegedušić, on his part, protected by his entire family, free to chose and include always greater number of people, formed a group of about thirty five painters, sculptors, students of the Academy of Fine Arts (among whom were Kaštelančić, I.Generalić, Ž.Hegedušić, later also Branka Hegedušić, Gabrijel Stupica, Dulčić, Kinert, Kirinčić, Režek, Šeremet, Kerdić, Rukljač, Angeli Radovani, Augustinčić, Antunac, Bakić, Sabolić, Crnobori, Striegl…), who were all in this way liberated from the obligation of Artists’ battalion and any other kind of war threat. Upon the termination of the Second World War, after the overturn, the works in the church of Marija Bistrica remained unfinished. As testified by Monsignor Lovro Cindori, many years parson in Marija Bistrica, neither Krsto Hegedušić nor Ivan Generalić not only ever finished their initiated works but also never stepped foot again in Marija Bistrica. Only Zlatko Šulentić already in early fifties of the 20th century fearlessly painted his Mary’s Assumption and the great Alexander Freudenreich created first Stepinac’ resting place in the Zagreb Cathedral, that resting place to which the whole world was pointing until the ecclesia martyrizata finally became ecclesia triumphans, and Stepinac lost his authentic but received his triumphant tomb. Almost seventy years after the initiated works, the new parson, Zlatko Koren, decided to finish the interior of the church. A huge draft by Hegedušić (for “Golgotha”) and several other drawings by other authors were found (for “The Birth of Christ” by Željko Hegedušić and for the “Flee to Egypt” by Ivan Generalić). Nowadays it is not easy to find masters of painting who are familiar with all skills of traditional approaches and techniques. The proofs of exceptional talents exhibited in Marija Bistrica the artists Eugen Kokot and Egidio Budicin, lending their hand to their great predecessors. They can thus rightfully be considered the co-authors of art masterpieces that in 2009 were resurrected into Croatian history of art. The Fresco “The Birth of Jesus” – the co-author work by Željko Hegedušić and Eugen Kokot – by the way it was painted corresponds to some extent to the ideology of the group “Earth” which had the intention of putting figurative art in the service of social justice: either by representing the poverty of common people or the value of their spontaneous, creative speech. Thus had Krsto Hegedušić evaluated Ivan Generalić as an equitable participant of this collective artistic engagement. However, on the fresco there can not be found that often present proneness to grotesque which binds the group “Earth” with the late offshoots of European expressionism. From the point of iconography, the scene is a domestic landscape, the stall of a peasant hut, with all the attributes of North-Croatian rural life. Here is the rake and the sickle, the hay-fork and the grape harvest basket, the iconography of life enumerated as the ropes and nails, the spears and the sponge are enumerated with the cross - the attributes of death. The characters are calm and even romantically collected; the central role, with profound reason, has been given to animals; and the colours, pale, orange, green, blue, violet remind more of a huge Quattrocento recollection than of a naive local representation. Among many iconographic particularities special mention deserves the laid aside king’s crown: that savant was “too much of a king to reign”; and the whole fresco and the whole history of Marija Bistrica speaks about the futility of power and earthly power and about the nobility of human deed as the only value.