Unknown portrait of poet Prešeren found in Zagreb museum

Zagreb, 10 July - An unknown portrait of the 19th century Romantic poet France Prešeren has been found in a museum in Zagreb, Croatia. Dated in the mid-19th century, the watercolour seems to be the most faithful image of the poet found so far. Experts believe his best known portrait, painted by Franz Kurz zum Thurn und Goldenstein, was a copy of this painting.

France Prešeren's statue in the square carrying the poet's name in the centre of Ljubljana.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
File photo

The small watercolour, 8.2 X 7 centimetres, was discovered by chance by art historian Ferdinand Šerbelj at the Zagreb Museum of Arts and Crafts, as he was going through paintings online to systematically analyse them, the newspaper Družina has reported.

The painting entitled Portrait of a Blond-Haired Man has an inventory number MUO-018031:miniature and is part of the museum's art collection, which is the second largest in Croatia boasting several thousand items.

Šerbelj, who has consulted other experts on this, is convinced that the painting is a most faithful portrait of the poet. "It matches the descriptions left behind by the poet's sister: that he had grey eyes, light-coloured hair ..."

It is clear from the image that Goldenstein's portrait of Prešeren, the first and only portrait of the poet, which he painted after the poet's death, is a copy of this watercolour, said Šerbelj.

Goldenstein (1807-1878) painted the famous portrait a year after Prešeren's death. Born in present-day Austria, he lived in Ljubljana between 1835 and 1867.

"The fact is that Goldenstein and Prešeren had known each other but it is also fact that they did not see each other any more after the poet moved to Kranj. So he painted him from memory, the memory of the poet's most beautiful and most creative years in Ljubljana," Šerbelj said.

Romantic poet Prešeren (1800-1849) is considered one of Slovenia's greatest poets. The patriotic and pacifist poem in which he makes a case for Slovenian identity is one of his best known poems, and one of its stanzas is the Slovenian anthem.

© STA, 2021