Murovec/Gabriel AHAS 2angl

Eustachius Gabriel's frescoes in the castle of Smlednik
Eighteenth-century ceiling fresco in the Festsaal of the Castle of Smlednik (Ger. Flödnig) approximately ten kilometers north of Ljubljana (Ger. Laibach, It. Lubiana [then administrative center of the Duchy of Carniola (Herzogtum Krain) and now the capital of Slovenia]) was first published by Marjana Lipoglavš ek who hypothetically dated it in the 1740s. Later Anica Cevc sought to identify its author with Johann Caspar Fibich, presumably on the basis of close similarities with the frescoes in the Domherrnhof in Graz and in the Castle of Premstätten that were ascribed to this Viennese “Theatermaler” by Hermann Egger. Recently, however, Bruno Bushart has demonstrated that these two Styrian fresco cycles show much closer stylistic affinities with the authenticated works of Eustachius Gabriel. Incidentally, Gabriel (who was born at Unterschwarzach on the outskirts of Bad Waldsee on 24 September 1724) died on 5 October 1772 in Ljubljana, where he also painted the ceiling decoration in the auditorium of the Jesuit College which perished in the fire of 1774. And yet, although duly including both Domherrnhof and Premstätten in his catalogue raisonné, Bushart seems to have been unaware of the existence of the obviously related frescoed ceiling at Smlednik.
In the latter case Gabriel's authorship is not only borne out by compelling stylistic evidence. It is indirectly also corroborated by his drawing of a Saint in Glory now in Vienna, Albertina, which is in the lower left corner inscribed with the name of Franz Joseph Freiherr von Flödnig (1742–1801), the owner of the Castle of Smlednik from 1763 onwards; it is therefore more than likely that it was made as a presentation drawing for the painted ceiling in this castle's chapel. Nevertheless, the frescoes that now adorn the chapel's interior were executed by the local painter Anton Cebej (1722–1774); there is thus good reason to believe that Gabriel was prevented from bringing to completion the decorative program in the Castle of Smlednik because of his death in October 1772. (Needless to say, in this light the obvious terminus post quem for Cebej's frescoes is the Winter of 1772.).
In the center of the Festsaal ceiling Sol-Apollo appears on his chariot encircled by the Zodiacal belt and surrounded by the pertaining classical gods and goddesses along with their retinues, while the frescoes on the side-walls represent allegories of the Times of the Day. On the whole, the preliminary analysis of these paintings' pictorial sources confirms Bushart's critical appraisal of Gabriel as “von fremden Vorlagen abhängiger und sich selbst ständig wiederholender Kompilator.” For, on the one hand, his models at Smlednik were works by the eighteenth-century painters of southern Germany, such as Johann Georg Bergmüller and Johann Evangelist Holzer, and especially their engravings of the so-called “Monats-Götter” of 1733. On the other hand, however, Gabriel borrowed several single figures and groups of figures from the monumental ceiling decorations of Daniel Gran in Vienna (Gartenpalais Schwarzenberg [1723–1728]; and the Prunksaal of the Hofbibliothek [1726–1730]) and in the Castle of Eckartsau (1732).
Presumably, then, Eustachius Gabriel was in the early 1770s in possession of several detailed drawings after Gran's exemplary frescoes which could have only been made in situ. The painted ceiling in the Castle of Smlednik thus also strongly indicates that – although he was since 1768 mostly active in the provinces of Carinthia, Styria and Carniola – this Swabian painter may have at some point in his itinerant career paid a visit to the Habsburg metropolis.