Other Modern: The Liturgical Art and Design of Helena Vurnik

Some time ago, an article was published on LAJ that showed the splendour of bishop’s chapel of Trieste. That chapel was designed by the Slovenian architect, Ivan Vurnik. However, when we talk about Ivan Vurnik and his achievements we cannot fail to speak of his wife, Helena Kottler Vurnik, who was a painter, designer and great collaborator with her husband. Her liturgical designs are treasured in Slovenia and are considered amongst the richest form of modern design -- what is referred to as "Other Modern" here on LAJ -- but unfortunately her work is not that well known outside of Slovenia.

In point of fact, much of the liturgical art and architecture attributed to either Ivan or Helena Vurnik is actually a collaborative work of both of them.

The altar and tabernacle in St. Catharine's Church, Medvode
The altar and tabernacle in St. Catharine church in Medvode is a collaborative work of Ivan and Helena Vurnik,  Ivan designed the altar and architectural components and Helena executed the altar painting. As with so many artists, Helena often incorporated portraits of her husband and son into many of her major works.

Altar of the Four Evangelists, St. Peter's Church, Radovljica
Above is a reproduction of the altar of the Four Evangelists in St. Peter's Church in Radovljica (the replica shown here is on display in Slovenian National Gallery). On the far right is St. John the Evangelist -- which is based off a portrait of her husband, Ivan.

The largest collection of her work is kept in Vurnik’s hometown of Radovljica, where the couple also spent their final years.

Our Lady Help of Christian Chasuble, Slovenian national Marian shrine
The Our Lady Help of Christians chasuble is located in Brezje at the Slovenian national Marian shrine located not far from Radovljica.

The Cathedral of Ljubljana is the owner of the most well known and iconic work of Helena Vurnik, known as the “Bishop Jeglič Mass Set” -- a full pontifical Mass set.

Chasuble, back
Chasuble, front
Detail from back of chasuble
Cope (on display in the National Gallery)
Here are a few of Helena Vurnik’s sketches for different Mass sets she designed.

To conclude, here a few images of her work coming from a temporary exhibition in National Gallery of Slovenia that was held from September through December 2017.

Helena Vurnik's "Annunciation" in Trieste

Image sources:
Marijan Zlobec
Parish of Radovljica (Andrej Župan)
Cathedral Parish of Celje (Matevž Hribernik)
Compendium Ivan Vurnik, slovenian architect, 1995
Exhibition catalog, Helena Vurnik, National Gallery, 2017

Matevž Hribernik
Studies Information and Communication Technologies at Fakulteta za elektrotehniko.

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