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A Forgotten Portrait by Vlaho Bukovac
; Museums and Galleries of Konavle, Bukovac House, Cavtat, Croatia
The Portrait of Miho Klaić by Vlaho Bukovac has been kept for decades in the parish rectory in Gruda, Konavle. It originated in Zadar in 1881, during the painter’s Parisian period (1877–1893), which was interrupted by short stays in his homeland. It is part of a larger body of work, consisting of some twenty portraits painted over the course of several months, in Dubrovnik, Zadar, Trieste and Paris. Bukovac portrayed the Dubrovnik uppermiddle class and intellectual circle, of which Miho Klaić was a member. Dubrovnik-born, Klaić spent a large part of his life in Zadar, where he was a prominent politician and one of the leaders of the Dalmatian popular movement in the second half of the 19th century. Upon his sudden death in 1896, the portrait became part of the family estate. In 1935, Klaić’s youngest son Ljubo died, having bequeathed the painting to the Municipality of Cavtat, his father’s region of birth. During the turbulent period of the late 1930s and early 1940s, the portrait was initially on view at the municipal ofces in Cavtat, and in 1939, when the Banate of Croatia was established and the municipalities reorganized, it was moved to Gruda, where the ofces were relocated. In Gruda, now an annexed Italian zone, the portrait was badly damaged in 1941. It is possible that the portrait’s subject, a well-known opponent of the autonomy movement in Dalmatia, was recognized by an Italian ofcer, who nearly destroyed the painting. When and how it was kept from then on is not known, but in 1952 it was retrieved from the parish rectory in Gruda, having been visibly damaged. That same year it was put on display in Cavtat, at the Exhibition of Compositions and Portraits, organized as part of the Vlaho Bukovac Festival, marking the 30th anniversary of the painter’s death. After the exhibition, it was returned to the parish priest in Gruda, don Danko Gatić. The literature provides us with only very basic information about the artwork and how the damage occurred, mentioning the need for restoration, but giving no clue as to whether this had actually taken place. In 1991, during the War of Independence, the parish rectory in Gruda suﬀered severely, and the Portrait of Miho Klaić was damaged even further. It was restored in the Dubrovnik Department for Conservation during the 1990s, and thus rescued from complete degradation.
The paper examines the surviving fragmentary historical records, in an attempt to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the origin, degradation and conservation of the Portrait of Miho Klaić by Vlaho Bukovac and draw attention to the need for its future preservation.
Vlaho Bukovac; Portrait of Miho Klaić; Dubrovnik; Zadar; 1881; damage; conservation work
Hrčak ID: 192461
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