Døj-Fetté: The sculptor Johann Georg Bendl (c. 1620-1680)
My dissertation investigates the sculptor Johann Georg Bendl (c. 1620-1680) and his work at the center of the Hapsburgs’ and Jesuits’ religious and political projects in the Czech lands as well as how his life and oeuvre fit within the broader European context. Bendl produced dynamic sculptures that began the transformation of Prague into a Catholic capitol after the Thirty Years’ War and set the tone for other projects around Central Europe.
To understand Bendl’s artistic presence I look at his stylistic inspirations; what ideas he drew on from artistic networks and what he gave back to the Central European community. Using the model of the cultural network, rather than the outdated idea of center and periphery, I will parse Bendl’s use of international sources and his understanding of his patron’s requirements to form his style. This, in turn, became the dominant mode for subsequent projects in Bohemia in the mid-seventeenth century. I also examine Bendl’s positioning of sculpture as an art and intellectual activity rather than a manual craft. He sought court patronage and fought to free sculptors from the Old Town Painters’ Guild and its obligations, ultimately breaking free and creating a new Sculptor’s Guild.
I ask how interpretations and sentiments toward Bendl’s sculptures developed and changed over time. Copies sprung up immediately after his construction of the Marian Column and, even as new trends rose in the late seventeenth century, his important public works remained in place. During the rise of Czech nationalism, his public works were deployed in the service of different and negative narratives. I will discuss the nature of the ambiguity and power of the layered historical meanings placed on Bendl’s works.
Fundamentally, my dissertation looks at communication: the intended communication for the patron to the viewers of Bendl’s sculptures; Bendl’s communication within the cultural network regarding artworks and the status of the artist; and the fraught communication between the artwork and the viewer.