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An epilogue to Francesco Robba
It has been believed so far that the sculptor Francesco Robba (Venice, 1 May 1698 – Zagreb, 24 January 1757), who had been active in Ljubljana from 1721 onwards, moved to Zagreb several years before his death. However, the documents presented in this paper for the first time prove that he remained the citizen of Ljubljana all until his death. As he died intestate, the City Council of Ljubljana appointed J. N. Mikolič as the official receiver of the sculptor's estate on March 26, 1757. During the following years, Mikolič kept trying to sell Robba's possessions in order to pay off the artist's numerous debts. The sculptor's movable property was sold at an auction already in 1758, while repeated attempts to sell his house, next to the Jesuit collegium, were fruitless until 1761 when two candidates thought of buying it: Robba's father-in law, M. Peterman, and the stonecutter F. Rottman. However, it was finally bought in 1766 by the receiver, Mikolič, himself. Robba's tools and stone blocks were purchased by F. Rottman in 1758 and 1764.
On May 28, 1757, the City Council summoned Robba's creditors to lodge their claims. Among the numerous claims many were made by his assistants whose names have not been known until now. The documents define all of them as stonecutters, but we know that Orazio Bonetti, at least, who can be met in documents together with Robba from 1731 on, was also a sculptor in stone and wood; so, for example, he collaborated in the execution of the chancel in Udine cathedral. Particularly interesting are the claims made by the clients who had paid in advance for works which Robba had never completed, or begun at all. The Ljubljana Augustinians even concluded a new contract with the sculptor in 1753 for the completion of the high altar in their church which he had been executing since 1728; they paid 1.000 fls in advance this second time. Because he had not completely fulfilled his obligations, they claimed the money back, with the deduction of the value of the work already done. In 1738 the Chapter of Zagreb cathedral concluded a contract with Robba for the altar of Sts Gervasius and Protasius, for the total value of 1.900 fls.; in 1746 they paid him 1.200 fls in advance. He had never finished it, so they claimed back the difference between the mentioned sum and the estimated value of 1.123 fls of the executed work. The sculptor did not fully carry out the contract for marble pavement in the sacristy either, for which he had receved the entire sum of 250 fls in advance. The altar of the Holy Cross for Zagreb cathedral, consecrated in 1756 and now mounted in the former parish church of Križevci, was convincingly attributed to Robba a long time ago, but no document has been known yet. It has been discovered now that Robba signed a contract for this altar with the Chapter on January 2, 1748, for the sum of 1.600 fls, but he was even paid some more than this, so the Chapter claimed the overpay back, and they also demanded to be reimbursed for the costs of gilding the cross on the altar and laying the pavement around, which Robba had also been bound to do by the contract.
New to the hitherto knowledge is also the information that Robba, bound by a contract of 1739, should have made the high altar for the parish church at Slavina. He did not do it himself, but it was executed by his followers, and so was the side altar of the Holy Trinity in the same church, originally made for Slavina's succursal church at Lonica, as agreed in the same contract. The stone Coronation group on this altar has been attributed to Robba and dated around 1730, but comparisons with the artist's mature, or late, works show that it is not by his hand but was probably executed by F. Rottman after the same model as the two Coronations of 1721/22, presumably by Robba.. The documents throw new light on the relationship between Robba and Rottman, who has been supposed to be the former's assistant and successor but was only granted the Ljubljana citizenship in 1757 to complete the works that had been left unfinished on Robba's death. Although Rottman attempted to take over the position that Robba had held, he was too poor a sculptor to succeed fully in this.
Robba promised that in 1752 he would provide two statues and five angelic figures for the altar of St. John Nepomuk in the Jesuit church of St. James, Ljubljana, which he had erected already in 1738. He was paid in advance the first installment of 134 fls in 1751, but he did not carry out the contract. The statues of Sts Florian and Roch that were mounted on the altar as late as 1764 have therefore been attributed to Rottman, although their quality has now and then given rise to speculations that he might have done them after Robba's models. We can learn from the court protocols that the statues are in fact by Robba himself, because on the grounds of the prepayment they were excluded from his estate and assigned to those who had commissioned them.