Four Generations of Woodcarvers: A Brief History of Mussner G. Vincenzo Ars Sacra

The “Mussner G. Vincenzo” studio is located in Ortisei, the main village of the Val Gardena, nestled in the Dolomite Mountains of north-eastern Italy. This small valley is known as “the valley of woodcarvers” because for the last four hundred years locals here have earned their living making woodcarvings of various sorts, not least of which in the form of sacred art. It is within this form that the Mussner family specialized and has a long history -- encompassing four generations of their family -- rooted in the creation and carving of statues of saints, crucifixes, Stations of the Cross and other items intended for use in churches.

The story of the Mussner studio begins in the year 1892 when Giacomo Mussner, a well known and innovative master sculptor in the Val Gardena, founded a studio under the name of “Giacomo Mussner, Bildhauer.” His eldest son Vincenzo Sr., learned the sculpting art from master and professor Ludwig Moroder, as well as from his own father. In 1932, Vincenzo Sr. took over the studio and changed the name in “Mussner Giac. Vincenzo, Scultore.”

Giacomo Mussner around the year 1890 in front of his studio. Beside him, an apprentice.

In 1971, Vincenzo Sr. retired and his oldest son, Vincenzo Giacomo -- also a certified master sculptor -- took over the running the studio and managed it until only very recently, passing on the reins to his elder son Gregor, another master sculptor. The family connection is not solely limited to these individuals however. For example, many of the carved works were commissioned to be coloured and this was done by yet another member of the Mussner family: Carlo Mussner -- Vincenzo’s younger brother.



This chain of family connection is a poignant reminder of the importance that family traditionally might have in the passing on of the tradition of liturgical art from one generation to the next. Regrettably, this sort of multi-generational approach is all too much the exception rather than the rule in our own time; a dying breed one might say. However, it takes little imagination to understand the great fruits this sort of situation might bear for sacred art. 

By way of an aside, some of our readers may find it of interest to know that, until the First World War, the primary customers of the Mussner studio were churches in the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire. By the end of the Second World War this shifted (as it did with so much in the post-war period) toward the New World with the many new American and Canadian churches being built at that time, all requiring sacred art to furnish them.

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