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F. A. Maulbertsch, Discovery of the Holy Cross

Name of Object:

Discovery of the Holy Cross


Governor’s Palace, Brno, Moravia, Czech Republic

Holding Museum:

Moravian Gallery, Brno

 About Moravian Gallery, Brno, Governor’s Palace, Brno

Date of Object:


Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Franz Anton Maulbertsch  (1724, Langenargen-1796, Vienna)

Museum Inventory Number:

A 1037

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Oil on paper on canvas


H: 32 cm; w: 44.6 cm


Private collection, Brno

Type of object:


Place of production:

Vienna? / Znojmo?


The scene depicts the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus died and the verification of its authenticity. The search for the cross was initiated in 324 by St. Helen, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who legalised the Christian faith by an edict in 313. These figures are not represented in this sketch executed for part of a ceiling painting in the Provost Church of St. Hyppolith in Hradisko near Znojmo, owned by the Order of the Knights of the Red Star.
The discovery, erection and celebration of the cross are arranged in chronological order along the perimeter of the church cupola. In the ancient Roman empire, the cross, tool of the most degrading capital punishment, was designated for slaves and rebels. For Christians, it became the epitome of the redemption of mankind through Christ. The scene is set on Golgotha, where three identical crosses have been excavated. The crosses were laid on dead bodies, and when the genuine cross was applied, the dead person miraculously came to life. In the picture, this is the reclining figure on the left. Maulbertsch's masterly use of light, dramatic chiaroscuro, expressive exaggeration of shapes and rhetorical gesture, is particularly marked in the lifting of the cross. Accents of red and dark blue lend mystery to the picture.
The final fresco differs from Maulbertsch's sketch only in the decorative detail and colour scheme, which appears less contrasted when seen in large format and makes allowance for the white-green-yellow Rococo stucco decoration of the interior. Josef Winterhalder Jr., later Maulbertsch's most faithful disciple, created his first independent paintings, side altar altarpieces, in this church. The cupola murals are also associated with a sketch by Josef Winterhalder Jr., Maulbertsch's associate and pupil for the Celebration of the Holy Cross and the drawings for the cupola paintings (Vienna, Albertina).

View Short Description

This sketch for the mural in the cupola of the Church of St. Hyppolith in Hradisko near Znojmo depicts the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus died and the verification of its authenticity. It exemplifies Maulbertsch’s masterly use of light effects, expressive exaggeration of shapes and rendering of rhetoric gestures.

Current Owner:

Moravian Gallery, Brno

How date and origin were established:

The Provost of the Order of the Knights of the Red Star signed a contract with Franz Anton Maulbertsch for the decoration of the Church of St. Hyppolith on 9 October 1765. The painter was to start work the following spring. He received 900 gold pieces and was provided board and lodging by the order for himself and his two assistants. The sketch or modello was a template for the artist's associates.

How Object was obtained:

Acquired in 1960 from the Mojmír Helcelet Collection, Brno.

Selected bibliography:

Miloš Stehlík, K restauraci díla F. A. Maulbertsche, Umění IX, 1961, p. 408.
Ivo Krsek, in Franz Anton Maulbertsch. Ausstellung anlässlich seines 250. Geburtstages, Wien–Halbturn–­­Heiligenkreuz-Gutenbrunn, 1974, pp. 97–98, cat. 65.
Klára Garas, Franz Anton Maulbertsch. Leben und Werk, Salzburg, 1974, p. 237.
Vlasta Kratinová, Barock in Mähren, Vienna, 1988, p. 48, cat. 27.
Zora Wörgötter, in Zora Wörgötter – Eduard Hindelang (eds), Franz Anton Maulbertsch und sein Umkreis in Mähren. Ausgewählte Werke aus tschechischen Sammlungen. Ausstellungsführer, Langenargen 2006, pp. 54–55, cat. 55.
Tomáš Valeš, in: Eduard Hindelang – Lubomír Slavíček (eds.), Josef Winterhalder d. J. Maulbertschs bester Schüler, Langenargen – Brno 2009, pp. 39–47.

Citation of this web page:

Zora Wörgötter "Discovery of the Holy Cross" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2022. https://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;BAR;cz;Mus11;39;en

Prepared by: Zora WörgötterZora Wörgötter

SURNAME: Wörgötter
NAME: Zora

AFFILIATION: Moravian Gallery in Brno

TITLE: Museum Curator and Local Co-ordinator

Zora Wörgötter studied Applied Painting at the Secondary School of Applied Arts, Video Art (Faculty of Fine Arts) at the University of Technology in Brno and Art History and Ethnology (Faculty of Arts) at Masaryk University, Brno. She has worked at the Moravian Gallery since 1997 and was curator of the Ancient Art Collection up until 2008. Specialising in Dutch and Central European painting of the 17th and 18th centuries, she has participated in the preparation of several exhibitions, catalogues and research projects in the Czech Republic and abroad, and published in the Moravian Gallery Bulletin, Opuscula historiae artium, and other journals. She is co-ordinator of the Art History Database www.ahice.net for the Czech Republic.

Copyedited by: Jiří KroupaJiří Kroupa

NAME: Jiří

AFFILIATION: Department of the History of Art (Faculty of Arts) Masaryk
University, Brno

TITLE: Professor

Professor Jiří Kroupa studied Art History, History and Sociology Masaryk University, Brno. He was a curator at the Kroměříž Museum and the Moravian Gallery in Brno before joining the staff at Masaryk University in 1988 (Head of the Department 1992–2002; Professor 1999 to present). His particular fields of interest are in the history of architecture, 18th-century cultural history and the methodology of art history. His long list of publications includes an edition on the architect Franz Anton Grimm and an essay “The alchemy of happiness: the Enlightenment in the Moravian context”. He was contributing editor for the volume Dans le miroir des ombres. Moravie a la age baroque. 1670–1790 (2002).

Translation by: Irma Charvátová
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: CZ 40


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