Barbara Vujanović (ITP 2016, Croatia) introduces Rodin at the Holburne Museum

Barbara Vujanović (ITP 2016, Croatia) Senior Curator, The Ivan Meštrović Museums – Meštrović Atelier, Zagreb

My involvement with the International Training Programme and the Rodin: rethinking the fragment (a British Museum Partnership Spotlight Loan) took me, after Kendal, to Bath where the exhibition was beautifully staged in The Holburne Museum, located in the charming Sydney Pleasure Gardens. The Holburne Museum is the city’s first public art gallery and is home to an exquisite fine and decorative arts collection; evolved around Sir William Holburne’s (1793-1874) collection, donated to the people of Bath by his sister, Mary Anne Barbara Holburne (1802-1882).


The collection consists of: inherited family treasures (Chinese armorial porcelain, silver and portraits); 17th and 18th century silver and porcelain; Italian maiolica and bronzes; old master paintings; portrait miniatures; books and furniture and a variety of other smaller items including Roman glass, coins, enamels, seals, gems and snuff boxes.

The exhibition focus, while at The Abbot Hall in Kendal, was on the interactive inclusion of the museum’s visitors, who for instance wrote answers to the question – “What’s The Thinker thinking?” and added their answers to the display wall. Whereas The Holburne Museum contributed to the exhibition by adding objects from their collection. The selected pieces reveal Sir William Holburne’s interest in the arts of ancient Greece and Rome, which informed his collecting throughout his life.


The British Museum’s Torso from a marble statuette of Venus was accompanied by Antonio Susini’s bronze statue Kneeling Woman; the fragmentariness of the antique Roman statue was largely accentuated by the wholeness of the mannerist representation of the ideal of feminine beauty. The subject of the classical canon of sculpture and architecture represented on the Royal Academy medal was also elaborated by exhibiting the gems and gesso impressions pf gems, which depict fragments of the classical world.

One of the highlights of the exhibition personally are the newly restored cork models of Vespasian ruins at the Forum, modeled in 19th century in Rome by Luigi Carotti, that fascinate with the astonishing accuracy of the details. The cork models capture the romanticism of the extant ruins of ancient Rome, which was as well the interest of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), whose prints depict his passion for the architectural fragments of the Eternal City. The central piece, The Thinker from The Burrell Collection, was accentuated by subtle lightning that emphasized its multifaceted symbolical meaning.


The exhibition opened on 2 November, and on 3 November Pippa Stephenson, Curator of European Art, Glasgow Museums, and I gave lectures on Auguste Rodin, William Burrell, and Scotland, and on The Thinker’s Revolutionizing of the Modern Art. Despite the clash with bonfire night, our talks were well attended, and even accompanied by sounds of fireworks!

I was so happy to finally visit the elegant city of Bath. It enchanted me with its glorious architecture and lovely museums, and its rich history, namely Roman and neoclassical periods, which are relevant to our exhibition project.