At Death’s Door (Triptych), 1904
oil on canvas, 89.2 x 176.4 cm
Symbolist painters generally preferred literary themes, and Dante’s oeuvre in particular. Vlaho Bukovac painted scenes inspired by Dante’s work, but Mirko Rački (1879-1982) was the painter whose work was most influenced by this theme.
Rački started to get preoccupied with Dante at the suggestion of Izidor Kršnjavi, who was translating The Divine Comedy at the time. For the Croatian translation, Rački produced a series of illustrations and several large painting adaptations. We know that Rački drew a study for The City of Dis in 1906 during his stay in Venice. Rački centred on this cycle almost his entire life, and interestingly, the drawings, gouaches and watercolours for Izidor Kršnjavi’s translation of The Divine Comedy that he produced between 1904 and 1907 were all purchased in 1911 at an exhibition in Italy and can today be found at the Department of Prints and Drawings in Florence.
With its stylistic features, the composition At Death’s Door from 1904, belongs to the symbolist style from the turn of the century: its triptych form, divisionist style, crepuscular ambience, depicted motifs (the sphynx, for example), the use of indistinct intermingling hues, as well as the very theme of the painting. It is important to note that this is one of the three works (along with Meštrović’s Timor Dei and František Bilek’s Magdalene), the acquisition of which in 1905 for the then Modern Gallery in Zagreb, began the formation of the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art and is considered the year of its foundation.
Text: Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum consultant © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, Zagreb, 2022