• Ivica Profaca

Where to See Meštrović' Works in Split?

There are lot of important Croatian artists, just like there are lot of great Croatian people in any other field. However, it's hard to find a name that would draw an attention of global passengers like Ivan Meštrović. No doubt, Meštrović belongs to whole Croatia, but his presence in Split is so important that it's really hard to miss him while visiting this town. Mestrovic Gallery and nearby Kastilac or Kastelet were and are always one of the cornerstones of a city tour, almost as important as the historical centre. Same goes with the statue of Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski) next to the Diocletian's Palace Golden Gate. This enormous Mestrovic' statue brings a lot of meanings, but most of the people will identify it with its toe, which is supposed to bring luck to those who rub it.

There is also a statue of father of Croatian literature Marko Marulic at one of the most beautiful city's squares, known in Split as the Fruit Square. For those leaning toward finding hidden jewels, it's worth of seeing a thomb of early 20th century politician and former Mayor of Split Ante Trumbic in Franciscan monastery's cloister at the westernd end of Riva. Same category might be the statue of St John the Baptist in the Jupiter's Temple/Old Baptistery.

Last but not least, if you choose a little hike in forest park Marjan, at one of its peaks you will find a bust of famed Croatian writer Luka Botić. Ivan Meštrović was born in Vrpolje, north Croatian region of Slavonia, in 1883. His family's origins are in Otavice, village near Drnis. How come that artist who neither was born in Split, nor his origins are in Split, is so inseparably connected with this town? His biography is easy to find, as well as all details of such a rich life and great career. That career took a simple village boy through whole Europe, and even farther, all the way to the USA. He did public statues there, too, for example famous Indians in Chicago, Il. President Dwight Eisenhower granted him a US citizenship, and he died on that side of the Atlantic Ocean. Still, he was buried in Otavice, in the family mausoleum which he designed. My advice is you should read all you can about Meštrović, you will learn important part of the world's art in 20th century, and discover why Meštrović had been compared with Michelangelo or August Rodin. To learn about Mestrovic, Split is important step. Villa which today hosts Mestrovic Gallery with artist's the most important works was designed by Meštrović himself, and was built from 1931 to 1939. Unfortunately, his family lived there only briefly, before the World War 2. After the war, Meštrović donated his villa to Croatian people, with a wish that it should be turned into a museum. Not very far from the Gallery, Meštrović rebuilt another villa, originally built in the 16th century for noble family Capogrosso. There, Meštrović arranged another exhibition space, but also a chappel dedicated to Madonna of Good Advice, with 28 beautiful wooden reliefs showing scenes of Jesus' life and passion. If you decide to visit Meštrović Gallery, ticket is valid for Kaštilac, too. Also, during summer season it's excellent stage for music or theatrical performances. Meštrović always liked grand works, dedicated to great people, and - again - Split is the right place to get familiar with them. I have mentioned them in the beginning, and can only strongly recommend that Gregory of Nin, Marulić, and even Trumbic to be included in a tour, because they tell a tale not only about the great artist, but also about history of Split and Croatia. In case you want to explore even furthrer, visit some other towns, too, and see Mestrovic' works - Trogir, Otavice, Drniš, Nin, Knin, Cavtat, Zagreb, Varaždin... Of course, none of them can compare with Split.

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