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Croatian Art of Croatia

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Croatia Croatian Art

In the 7th century the Croats, along with other Slavs and Avars, came from Northern Europe to the region where they live today. The Croats were open to roman art and culture, and most of all to Christianity. First churches were built as royal sanctuaries, and influences of Roman art were strongest in Dalmatia where urbanization was thickest, and there were the largest number of monuments. Gradually that influence was neglected and certain simplification, alteration of inherited forms and even creation of original buildings appeared.

The largest and most complicated central based church from the 9th century is St Donatus in Zadar. From those times, with its size and beauty we can only compare the chapel of Charlemagne in Aachen. Altar enclosure and windows of those churches were highly decorated with transparent shallow string-like ornament that is called Croatian pleter because the strings were threaded and rethreaded through itself. Sometimes the engravings in early Croatian script – Glagolitic appeared. Soon, the glagolic writings were replaced with Latin on altar boundaries and architraves of old-Croatian churches.

By joining the Hungarian state in the twelfth century, Croatia lost its independence, but it didn't lose its ties with the south and the west, and instead this ensured the beginning of a new era of Central European cultural influence.

Early Romanesque art appeared in Croatia at the beginning of 11th century with strong development of monasteries and reform of the church. In that period, many valuable monuments and artifacts along the Croatian coast were made, such as the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, Zadar in Zadar (13th century). In Croatian Romanesque sculpture we have a transformation of decorative interlace relief (Croatian pleter) to figurative. The best examples of Romanesque sculpture are: wooden doors of Split cathedral done by Andrija Buvina (c.1220) and Stone portal of Trogir cathedral done by artisan Radovan (c. 1240). Early frescoes are numerous and best preserved in Istria. On them we can evidence the mixing of influences of Eastern and Western Europe. The oldest miniatures are from the 13th century – Evangelical book from Split and Trogir.

The Gothic art in 14th century was supported by culture of cities councils, preaching orders (like Franciscans), and knightly culture. It was the golden age of free Dalmatian cities that were trading with Croatian feudal nobility in the continent. Largest urban project of those times was complete building of two new towns – Small and Large Ston, and about a kilometre of wall with guard towers between them (14th century). After Hadrian's wall in Scotland, the longest wall in Europe.

Tatars destroyed the Romanesque cathedral in Zagreb during their scourge in 1240, but right after their departure Zagreb got the title of a free city from Hungarian king Bela IV. Soon after bishop Timotej began to rebuild the cathedral in new Gothic style.

Zadar was an independent Venetian city. The most beautiful examples of gothic humanism in Zadar are reliefs in gilded metal as in Arc of St Simon by artisan from Milan in 1380. Gothic painting is less preserved, and the finest works are in Istria as fresco-cycle of Vincent from Kastv in Church of Holy Mary in Škriljinah near Beram, from 1474. From that times are the two of the best and most decorated illuminated liturgies done by monks from Split, – Hvals’ Zbornik (today in Zagreb) and Misal of Bosnian duke Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić (now in Istanbul).

In 15th century, Croatia was divided between three states – northern Croatia was a part of Austrian Empire, Dalmatia was under the rule of Venetian Republic and Slavonia was under Ottoman occupation. Dalmatia was on the periphery of several influences so religious and public architecture with clear influence of Italian renaissance flourished. Three works out of that period are of European importance, and will contribute to further development of Renaissance: Cathedral of St.Jacob in Šibenik, in 1441 by Giorgio da Sebenico; chapel of Blessed John from Trogir in 1468 by Niccolò Fiorentino; and Sorkočević’s villa in Lapad near Dubrovnik in 1521.

In northwestern Croatia, the beginning of the wars with the Ottoman Empire caused many problems but in the long term it both reinforced the northern influence. The Ottoman advance was known for its violence. With permanent danger by Ottomans from east, there was modest influence of renaissance, while fortifications thrived, like fortified city of Karlovac in 1579 and fort of Ratkay family in Veliki Tabor from 16th century. Some of the famous Croatian renaissance artists lived and worked in other countries, like brothers Laurana, miniaturist Giulio Clovio and famous mannerist painter Andrea Schiavone.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Croatia was reunited with the parts of country that were occupied by Venetian Republic and Ottoman Empire. The unity attributed to sudden flourishing of Art in every segment.

Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia

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