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Statues of two Franciscan saints – a work by Straub or Robba? 

Two marble statues of Franciscan saints flanking the high altar in the Šiška parish church of St. Francis of Assisi, Ljubljana, have been attributed to Joseph Straub (1712–1756) so far. As an assistant sculptor he came to Ljubljana in 1736 but was soon involved in a quarrel with the master sculptor Heinrich Michael Löhr because of taking over from him a minor commission given by the Discalceate fathers. Löhr brought an action against the young new-comer, and Straub could have hardly expected to receive so prominent a commission in Ljubljana as was the execution of the two marble saints. In 1737/38 Straub is found in Vipava carving a wooden high altar for the parish church there (removed between 1789 and 1795); from 1741 date his two wooden sculptures for the church at Štanjel; and attributed to him can safely be the former wooden altar in the succursal church of the Holy Trinity by Podnanos. It can be concluded from the above that he did not master carving in stone, and furthermore, the style of these works by him differs greatly from the Šiška statues.

Until 1911 the discussed statues were part of the altar of St. Francis of Assisi in the Franciscan church of the Annunciation, Ljubljana; however, they had not been originally intended for this former Augustinian church, but were only brought there by the Franciscan fathers on their moving from their old church to the new location in 1784. It is possible to identify these sculptures with two statues mentioned in some secondary archival sources stating that they were made for the high altar of the old Franciscan church (suppressed in 1784) by the sculptor Francesco Robba (1698–1757); until now they have been believed to be lost. They were executed on the occasion of the modification of the altar in 1748 but were already removed in 1772 when the sculptor Alexius Rivalta made a new altar now housed in the succursal church at Škocjan near Dob. One statue represents St. Bonaventura, while the other, which has hitherto been identified as St. Bernardino of Siena, portrays St. Anthony of Padua in fact: the sculptor's inventive representation of the saint refers to the Miracle of the Mule.

The two excellent statues demonstrate all the characteristics of style and quality typical of Robba's mature work.