The Museum of Arts and Crafts (Croatian: Muzej za umjetnost i obrt) in Zagreb extends over three floors at more than 2000 m² of museum space and includes about 3000 exhibits. The displayed objects illustrate the shift of stylistic periods from Gothic to graphic and product design of the period from 1950s. The objects are part of museum’s diverse collections of ceramics, clocks and watches, glass, graphic design, ivory, furniture, metal, musical instruments, painted leather, paintings, photography, bookbinding, product design, sculptures, textiles, fashion accessories and varia. The historical review of artistic styles is complemented with independent thematic units, such as religious painting, sculpture and metal, devotionalia, and Judaica.
The Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb Croatia was established in 1880, by the initiative of the Arts Society and its former President Izidor Kršnjavi. Drawing on the theoretical precepts of the Endgland’s Arts and Crafts movement and the intellectual postulates od Gottfried Semper, the museum was devised with the aim of creating a collection of models for master craftsmen and artist to reinvigorate the production of everyday use items. The strategy of the museum’s activity was focused on presevation of traditional crafts, as well as creation of a new middle class aesthetic culture. Therefore, in 1882 the Crafts School (today Applied Art and Design School) was founded along the museum. The building, constructed in 1888 by Hermann Bollé, is one of the first purpose-built edifices devised to merge the functions of the museum and the school. Stylistically, the building is a grand Historicist palace in the spirit of the German Renaissance.
The initial holdings had been founded several years before the Museum was formally assembled. The first permanent display in its unsuitable premises opened in Gajeva Street 26, while the complete permanent display was first seen in its own venue in 1909. The current permanent display, open in 1995 according to the ideas of the former director Vladimir Maleković, and the spatial articulation of architect Marijan Hržić, includes chosen objects from all museum collections. The permanent exhibition extends over three floors at more than 2,000 m2 of museum space and includes about 3,000 exhibits. The displayed objects illustrate the shift of stylistic periods from Gothic to Art Deco.
The museum houses more than 160,000 objects spanning from 4th to 20th century. The initial holdings of the Museum had been founded several years before the museum was formally assembled. The first objects for the future museum were bought in 1875 by Izidor Kršnjavi with a donation of bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer at an inheritance auction of Catalan painter and collector Mariano Fortuny in Paris.
The Collections Department systematically collects, studies, exhibits and publishes the museum material. From its beginnings, the Museum of Arts and Crafts has been systematically developing its 19 diverse collections, reorganising existing collections and founding new. Today this department curates about 100,000 objects that comprise the following collections: architecture, ceramics, clocks and watches, devotionalia, glass, graphic design, ivory, furniture, metal, musical instruments, painted leather, paintings, photographs and photographic equipment, photography up to 1950, printing and book binding, prints, product design, sculptures, textiles and fashion accessories, varia, and Anka Gvozdanović’s collection.
The museum has its own Restoration Department specialized in painting and sculpture, textile, furnishings and metal, and ceramics and glass.
Collection of Architecture
The Collection of Architecture of the Museum of Arts and Crafts has more than a thousand objects. Apart from several donations and purchases from authors, owners and institutions (Crafts School Administrative Office, Academy of Applied Arts), the majority of objects in the Collection of Architecture in the museum’s holdings came as a gift from the organizational committees of architectural exhibitions and exhibitions where the architecture has a separate section.
The Ivory Collection of the holdings of the Museum of Arts and Crafts, the only fairly early created complete collection of the kind in Croatia, makes up a well rounded whole with artefacts of European origin of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Within this corpus, individual groups of typologically and thematically similar objects characteristic of the production of the artistically worked ivory in these periods can be distinguished. As early as 1893, the first ivory object was acquired for the future collection, the so-called contrefait sphere. With a fairly large number of ivory acquisitions, the museum collection of ivory was much enriched with worthwhile pieces by the purchase of the Jakob frank collection in 1906. With their character and quality these works constituted the basic holdings of the collection and determine its profile. Over the course of time, the existing holdings were successively built upon with similar artefacts, with objects that were to the greatest extent donated. Along with several items from the collection of Salomon Berger, founder and first director of the Ethnographic Museum, a number of objects derive from private persons, many of whom in their origin and activity occupied an important place in the Croatian cultural setting. A number of individual items were bought from Zagreb antique dealers.
Part of the permanent religious art display is dedicated to devotionalia – items that were used for the expression of piety in private settings, with no sacerdotal presence or liturgical rules. The peak of this cult came in the Baroque, particularly in the 18th century. The collection of devotionalia consists of diverse religious objects among which the most numerous are what are called votive images and reliquaries in the form of a picture with a more or less opulent frame of carved and gilt wood, followed by medallions, small household altars, crosses and rosaries.
Collection of Photographic Equipment
In the Collection of Photographic Equipment of the Museum of Arts and Crafts are held cameras of national and international origin, arising from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century.
The collections of design have been established in the 1950s owing to the enthusiasm of the curator, and later the director of the museum, Radoslav Putar. The museum then actively joined the newly established institutions, professional organizations and groups of architects and artists in the promotion of design in Croatia.
The Prints Collection
The first acquisitions for the collection date back to 1785 when the notable art historian Izidor Kršnjavi, among other, bought a larger collection of prints for the future museum at an auction of a Catalan painter Mariano Fortuny. Further acquisitions and donations formed a collection of a wide range of topics and forms which includes almost all periods in the development of printmaking from 16th to 21st century. The peculiarities of the development and achievements of print production in the countries of the European cultural circle in the collection are best represented by works of Flemish, French and Italian masters. In this part of the collection with its scope and importance stands out the contextually rounded whole of 150 French baroque prints from the famous edition of the Royal Cabinet of Louis XIV. Through this separate form of graphic production, led by ambitious court orders that were accomplished by leading artists of this period in the area of author and reproductive prints, reflect the specific circumstances which gave impetus to the rise of French printmaking in the second half of the 17th century.
The very earliest acquisitions of ceramics for the Museum of Arts and Crafts, recorded even before the official founding of the Museum, heralded the future diversity and richness of the great collection. Such an approach in the formation of the collection and its current profile is shown in the selection of objects for the permanent display of the Museum. Most of the objects were in use in Croatia. A central place in the study collection goes to the biggest and most complete sub-collection – the porcelain of European manufactories. The oldest European works, that of Meissen, is represented with dishes and figures among which pieces ascribed to Johann Joachim Kaendler, the best known modeller in the manufactory, stand out. A breakfast set painted with war scenes the protagonists of which are the pandurs of Baron Franjo Trenk have a great value in terms of art and culture history. The author of the scenes was probably the painter of the Meissen works Christian Friedrich Kühnel, and for his originals he took prints by Martin Engelbrecht. The service itself was acquired for the Museum’s collection successively between 1885 and 1895. In the study collection of porcelain, items from the Vienna manufactory are numerically dominant. Its history can be followed in the exhibits: from objects created in the first years of its work (“the Du Paquier period”) to the lavishly decorated objects of the first half of the 19th century. The label of most valuable exhibit in the group goes to a mug of 1721, one of the few signed products of the earliest period of the Vienna manufactory. Apart from the products of Vienna and Meissen, the study collection also shows objects created in the second half of the 18th and in the early 19th century in the well-known German manufactories in Berlin, Höchst, Nymphenburg and Frankenthal, as well as the products of the Naples manufactory. A small but valuable group consists of French porcelain from the royal manufactory at Sèvres and objects produced in the Paris manufactories. The richness of the porcelain sub-collection is illustrated by objects made in Denmark, Bohemia and Russia during Historicism and Art Nouveau.
The collection covers objects of precious and base metals: silver, gold, copper, tin, bronze, brass, iron and the many industrial alloys of the 19th and 20th centuries acquired in the very first years of the Museum’s existence. From the first acquisitions on, the collection was systematically added to, in the very beginnings with the galvanoplastic copies common in the 19th century, as well as by the purchase and donations of original works of art. In this sense, it was significantly enriched with the purchases of the Frank and Berger collections (1906; 1936 – 1939), and by numerous individual donations by members of the public and by the most recent great donation, that of the Tuškan family (2004). On the third floor of the permanent display objects of a secular nature are shown, while religious metal objects are shown in the exhibition of religious art on the first floor of the Museum.
Collection of Furniture
Collection of Furniture, the largest and most complete of its kind in Croatia, by having nearly 2000 items from Gothic to contemporary design represents the backbone of the museological concept of the permanent exhibition (1995).
Collection of Painted Leather
The collection of painted gilt leather is quantitatively not big, but it is an extremely valuable collection and interesting for its artistic quality as well as cultural and historical value of the preserved items.
The Collection of Product Design is a relatively small collection of about 1,000 items which fifty years after its founding, similarly to Croatian product design, is still looking for its identity. The collection is small partially because many objects are administratively part of other museum collections (furniture, glass, ceramics, metal). In part, however, the cause must be sought in a series of conversions that seized our producers in the last century, where, most often, historical documentation, products and all traces of the past were lightly discarded as waste. However, the main reason for the poverty of this collection is the fact that industrial design in Croatia has never caught up with neither a qualitative nor a quantitative level of graphic design.
Clocks and Watches
The Clocks and Watches Collection comprises more than 400 home (longcase, wall, mantle) clocks and about 250 pocket watches and wrist watches, created since the 17th century. Though most of them are foreign made, it is an essential characteristic that they were collected only in Croatia. The most numerous are central European items, especially those from Vienna. Around the middle of the 18th century there are signatures on clocks and watches that indicate the existence of clockmaking workshops in some of our cities (Zagreb, Varaždin, Osijek, Rijeka, Karlovac).
The Glass Collection
With holdings numbering almost 6000 objects, the museum Glass Collection is the biggest and most important in Croatia. It is represented in the permanent display with a selection of top productions that afford an insight into the historical development and high achievements of the foreign as well as of the domestic art of glassmaking from the 16th to the 20th century. The selection includes everyday use as well as rare and very valuable items that were used only for display purposes.
Old Photography Collection
Photographs for the holdings of the Museum began to be collected even earlier than its foundation. Izidor Kršnjavi, the intellectual force behind the art history course at Zagreb University and the Museum of Arts and Crafts, acquired them with a multiple purpose in mind. Immediately connected with museum practice, with preservation of the architectural and cultural heritage, they were also supposed, and primarily, to serve as a teaching aid, as a vivid prototype for the revival of the fine crafts and only ultimately as museum objects. The first objects for the future museum, obtained at an auction of the painter Mariano fortuny in Paris 1875, were recorded photographically. By 1878, when he held his first lecture in the Chair of art and archaeology history, Izidor Kršnjavi already had a remarkable collection.
Fashion and Accessories
The Textile Collection of the Museum of Arts and Crafts is one of the fundamental and biggest museum collections and is made up of several sub-collections: religious textiles, tapestries, carpets and kilims, laces and fashion and fashion accessories. In the study collection of fashion of the permanent display of the Museum, select items of clothing and fashion accessories that illustrate the development and changes in the style of clothing from the 17th to the end of the 20th century are shown.
The Varia Collection
The Varia Collection is but a small part of the holdings of MUO, yet composed of material that complements and enriches it, considering the museum type which is based on the production of the fine crafts. It comprises about 350 items, most of them being tobacco requisites, pipes, cigarette and match cases, snuffboxes and the like. Most of the items are of foreign origin, and they date from the 18th to the 20th century. The criterion for belonging to this collection is the material used, and hence some of the material is found in other collections (metals, ceramics, ivory and so on). As well as the tobacco-related implements, one other part of the Varia Collection is made up of wooden pots and so on used in druggists’.
Collection of Anka Gvozdanović
The Collection of Anka Gvozdanović is a representative whole that documents the culture of living of nobles in Zagreb in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is located in one of the characteristic Upper Town houses in the street Visoka 8, in the historic center of Zagreb. The palace Babočaj-Gvozdanović is first mentioned in 1809. With the courtyard wing on the north side and the yard by the street it was built on the newly formed plot at the former city wall at the end of the 18th or at the beginning of the 19th century. During the 19th century the known owners are Nikola Babočaj, doctor John Daubachy, family Kamauf and writer Mirko Bogović, and in the 20th century landowner Dragutin pl. Gvozdanović and his wife Anka. Family crest Gvozdanović is located above the central balcony on the western façade.
The museum’s library was founded at the same time as the museum itself. The idea of Izidor Kršnjavi, founder and first director of the Museum, was that along with providing basic lessons from art history it should provide suitable patterns from its collections to improve production in art and the fine crafts. This purpose was served by the collection of graphic patterns for all kinds of applied arts and ornaments characteristic of given periods of style. This historical collection of books is still kept in its original line-up, in an interior made according to designs by architect Hermann Bollé.
Since 1880, the library has developed and been transformed in accordance with the founding mission of the museum and the understanding of its role in the framework of currently valid conceptions of museology. Today, a contemporary specialised library, integrating the demands of contemporary museology and librarianship with the contents of holdings that are correlated with the collections, it is above all used to give support to specialised and scholarly work by museum personnel. The holdings of 65,000 volumes contain books, journals and reference works from the history of art, the fine crafts and kindred areas, print portfolios and albums of patterns for various crafts, catalogues of exhibitions and auctions. A special unit consists of the collection of rare and old books of the 16th to the 19th century that also has the significance of being a museum collection in itself. The library of the Museum exchanges publications with more than 150 similar institutions at home and abroad and has subscriptions for Croatian and foreign journals in the discipline.