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The emergence of art academies in Ljubljana at the beginning of the 18th century. The Statutes of the Academia trium Artium and Academia incultorum
At the end of the 17th century, following the example of foreign, mostly Italian, academies, Carniolan intellectuals began to organize special societies or academies. They wanted to foster, through planned and organized activities, the development of sciences and arts in their homeland and thus put it on a par with the acknowledged cultural countries of contemporary Europe. As early as 1688 (1689) a lay association of the leading scientists and public workers of Carniola, St. Dismas' Brotherhood, came into being in Ljubljana. From this circle the society of the laborious, the Academia operosorum, grew in 1693, conceived as an explicitly scientific academy. Alongside of it, the chronicle writer and historian Janez Gregor Dolničar, together with his adherents, planned to establish an extensive system of specialized academies, particularly for specific fields of arts. In 1701 the Academia philharmonicorum was thus founded for the field of music, and even two academies of fine arts should follow, the Academia incultorum and the Academia trium Artium, while in 1709 they were joined by the Academia Emonia for the field of literary arts.
It seems that none of the two academies of fine arts that were envisaged at the dawn of the 18th century really began to live. There is no evidence as to the activity of these academies, however, their statutes do exist. Statements can be found in older literature that the academy of drawing (Academia incultorum), which is supposed to have really existed, formally at least, was founded as early as 1701 (so it could celebrate its 300th anniversary this year, together with the philharmonic society), or 1702 respectively; and Dolničar himself wrote somewhere that the academy of the three arts "would be brought to life very soon" (inter aliquos stabilita, lucem proxime expectat), but he never mentioned either of them again, which would appear rather unreasonable had they indeed been active. One of the reasons of their failure may have also been the fact that the guilds in Ljubljana, like elsewhere in Europe, would certainly not have been particularly inclined to the emergence of a new organization of artists, although the way it was planned represented no rivalry to them. Anyway, it must be admitted that the attempt of Dolničar and his companions to set up art academies was certainly not a belated but rather relatively early enterprise even within a wider European context, and, considering the circumstances in Carniola, it was a rather ambitious project despite its modest scheme.
Janez Gregor Dolničar, probably assisted by his adherents, composed the rules for the two planned art academies as the guidelines for their activities (he even added three drafts of their symbols which he drew himself: a felled tree-trunk with a sculptor's tools; a fountain; and a sunflower). Obviously modelling the statute of the Academia trium Artium – which was to join both the artists and art lovers in order to stimulate the development of painting, sculpture and architecture – on Italian examples, he employed Italian language for them but adapted them to the circumstances in Ljubljana. Academic rules are concise and not elaborated in detail. So it is only possible to understand that regular meetings of the members were envisaged, as well as exhibitions of works of art, competitions and prizes for the best artists, but there is no mention of a training programme. It seems that the artists of Ljubljana were expected to gather late in the afternoon or in the evening to attend drawing lessons, working after still models or from life, by which the planned academy approached the character of private art circles in a studio, while the fact that he envisaged a symbol alludes to the tradition of literary academies of the 16th century (similar characteristics were also combined in the Bolognese academy, for example). The society of the "unformed", called the Academia incultorum (Dolničar wrote its rules in German) was only intended to train amateurs in drawing and thus ennoble their mind. One of such amateurs was Baron Brenner (Prenner) – obviously Wolf Daniel is at issue, who was provincial administrator and manager at the beginning of the 18th century – whom Dolničar presents as an example of a would-be model patron of the academy, probably due to his prominent social position.
At least the following members of the Academia Operosorum were undoubtedly interested in the foundation of art academies: Janez Gregor Dolničar (1655–1719), Janez Anton Dolničar (1662–1714), Janez Krstnik Prešeren (1656–1704), Janez Andrej Coppini (b. 1653), Janez Rudolf Coraduzzi (1633–1717), Janez Štefan Florijančič von Grienfeld (1663–1709), Jurij Andrej Gladič (1659–1725), Maksimilijan Leopold Rasp (1673–1742), Janez Jakob Schilling (1664–1754) and Frančišek Viljem Zergollern (1653–1710). Although they did not participate in art professionally, they did want to ensure the education of artists and they systematically supported artistic creativity. The young generation also inspired hopes, two promising youths in particular: Dolničar's son Aleš Žiga (1685–1708) attended drawing lessons at the Academia Delineationis in Perugia while he was studying law there, and later he even improved his skill in Rome, where he dedicated himself not only to painting but also to graphic arts and architecture. Unfortunately he died very young. Janez Jožef Zergollern (b. 1684) received his first training in drawing in his native country, from the painter Frančišek Remb, then he was improving his skill during his travel from Vienna to Portugal, but it is not known where his adventurous life led him later on.
The leading function, as president, founder and patron, in the Academia trium Artium was evidently meant to be taken on by one of the operosi, Baron Jurij Adam Grimšic (1670–1757) from the castle of Grimšce (Grimschitzhof) near Bled, who was himself trained in fine arts, especially in painting. He was trained in Rome, in the studio of the famous Carlo Maratti; he also dedicated himself to the study of architecture and military skills. When back to Carniola, he became assessor in the court and imperial councillor and he managed the Vidame Office for Carniola until his old age. He wrote about architectural, building and political issues. His academic lecture, Artium cultus veterum cum modernis comparatio, which he prepared for publishing in 1709, could relate exactly to the academy of trium Artium, to which he, as its patron, might have hospitably offered premises in his own house. Since it proved a failure, he opened a private academy of painting in Ljubljana in 1712, probably as sort of a substitute, but for the time being, its activities remain beyond any concrete knowledge. It is only possible to assume that he wanted to transfer some of the experiences he had gained during his Roman training to Ljubljana.
The statutes of the two academies of fine arts are published here (see the appendix) for the first time in the original (this also makes possible a better comparison with academies abroad). This valuable document bears witness to the fact that the operosi helped the cultural climate in Carniola to rise to the European level.