Sculpture Journal

Meštrović’s religious works: from sacred motifs to iconographic programmes

Sculpture Journal (2016), 25, (2), 217–234.


The religious elements in Ivan Meštrović's work were to become the most dominant aspect of his oeuvre, especially in the last two decades of his life. This article examines his sculpture and beliefs within the context of the birth of European Expressionism, and in relation to those of his British contemporaries who depicted similar subjects. Meštrović’s iconographic programmes reveal a subjective and unorthodox approach to conventional religious concepts, particularly in his private projects: the cycle of wooden reliefs depicting the life of Christ (at Crikvine–Kaštilac in Split) and the iconographic plan for his family mausoleum (the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Otavice). His Life of Christ (1916–50) manifests the morphological and stylistic changes in the depiction of well-known religious motifs, directly influenced by personal events in his life. Conversely, the family mausoleum in Otavice (c.1938) reveals an unconventional concept of spirituality, indicating the influence of Eastern cultures, both artistic and philosophical. Meštrović’s adherence to religious motifs was not a superficial leaning towards Byzantine styles and pagan beliefs, as suggested in a number of contemporary reviews of the 1915 exhibition. On the contrary, his beliefs evolved into a complex philosophical discourse, rooted in an examination of both Christian sources and the sacred texts of other major religions.

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Author details

Šabić, Zorana Jurić