Francesco Robba (b. Venice, 1. May 1698; d. Zagreb, 24. January 1757) was between 1711 and 1716 trained in the studio of Pietro Baratta in Venice. In Ljubljana, Robas presence is, however, first documented in 1716, when he married Mislejs daughter Theresia ... On Mislejs death in 1727, Robba took over Mislejs workshop with an established clientele in and beyond Carniola, and at that time he was already called "sculptor and architect" and "a citizen of Ljubljana". In 1743 he was elected a member of the citys External Council; and in 1745 he also successfully applied for the post of the Carniolan "state engineer". Yet he is also known to have paid several visits to his native Venice. During the long period of his recorded residence in Ljubljana (1722-55), Robba was regularly allotted the most prestigious public and private commissions emanating from ecclesiastical, aristocratic and bourgeois patrons in Carniola, Carinthia and continental Croatia
Robbas early free-standing marble statues and reliefs (ra. 1721-26) reveal the strong influence of his teacher, Bratta, while his best mature works (at least from the late 1730s onwards) are not only marked by a growing self-confidence, an ever greater technical virtuosity and formally refined and emotionally expressive style, theu also bear witness to his familiarity with the Baroque sculpture in central Italy in general and Rome particular. Prosaic afficial documents rarely allow an insight into Robbas contemporaries perception of his artistic quality. Yet alresdz in 1729 the rector of the Jesuit College in Zagreb, Francesco Saverio Barci, in a formal letter to the actual patron of one of Robbasearlier autograph marble altarpieces, Prince Emmerich Esterházy, Archbishop of Esztergom, eloquently writes: "we are filied with joy to see how it, through the grace of its rare beauty and by the variety of the well polished Italian marbles, cvinces attention, admiration and praise from the eyes and tongues of the behalders."
In this century much valuable research in Robbas life and work has been carried out by Slovenian and Croatian scholars ... Moreover, aome them also contributed notable synthetic appreisals of the artists oeuvre as a whole. In consequence already decades ago a general agreement has been reached that "Robba is undoubtedly the most important sculptor in marble of the Baroque period in the Alpine zone of south-eastern central Europe. Indeed, his was such a strong artistic personality that it did not succumb in the impact of the emerging classicism, which was at that time urged upon the Austrian sculpture by (Georg) Raphael Donner" (France Stelè)
Francesco Robba and the Highlights of Venetian Baroque Sculpture in Ljubljana
Text by Matej Klemencic and Stanko Kokole
English version by Stanko Kokole
Narodna galerija, Ljubljana 1998
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