Gothic art represents a special chapter of the art history of Slovak culture which is valued by the professional and lay public as the “family jewels.” Because of the liturgical character of the majority of Gothic monuments, the Catholic Church is the owner of the most abundant collections. However, the SNG collection represents the largest collection of Gothic art among public institutions. Thus, as such, it is an irreplaceable source for the creation of important exhibitions, as well as restoration and research.
The Collection of Gothic Art includes artefacts from the half of the 13th century until the first third of the 16th century, and as of January 2011 it contained 198 items. From the chronological delimitation it is already obvious that the term “Gothic” in its title is not exclusive, because the late-Roman Madonna from southern Germany and the altar of Vojany represent the oldest works (both originated from the middle of the 13th century) while the sculptures “on the threshold of the Renaissance” from the circle of Master Pavol of Levoča and Czobor’s Epitaph from Skalica are the examples of the youngest works.
In general, the works of Slovak provenience, predominantly from the Spiš Region, are represented here. However, the SNG has acquired several significant sculptures and paintings from surrounding regions (Czech Republic, Moravia, Austria, Bavaria, Carinthia and Lesser Poland) which had a great influence on art production in Slovakia. Thus we strive to create a collection context that naturally extends beyond the borders of Slovakia.
The growth of the collection was determined by the possibilities of the institution shortly after its founding in 1948, as well as (and particularly) by the ideological prejudices of socialist cultural policy. Credit for the collection's development goes to Karol Vaculík (until 1970 the director, until 1989 the head of the department of old art) however Anton Glatz, the curator (until 2001), who was also the author of the SNG collection catalogue in the edition Fontes (1983) is especially deserving of acknowledgement. Additional acquisition and publication activities regarding the Gothic collection at the SNG continues despite Glatz’s death, although Gothic work is hard to find in the Central European art market today.
In spite of the breadth of the Collection of Gothic Art, it fails to fully cover the most important workshops of late medieval art production of Slovakia. Although the recent acquisition of the panel painting by the Master from Okoličné (ca. 1510–1520) filled the gap in the painting collection, a truly excellent monumental sculpture from the studio of Master Pavol of Levoča is still missing. Technologically excellent copies of his work, created by Heřman and Viktor Kotrba during the restoration of the Main Altar of St. Jacob in Levoča exist, but constitute only a weak compensation. It would be equally necessary to gradually extend the lapidary collection through purchases of other stone sculptures or reliefs.
Curator of the Collection of Gothic Art: Dušan Buran