Alojz Rigele — Cardinal Pázmány

Alojz Rigele was one of the most popular and respected sculptors in Bratislava. In the early 20th century, he helped create the image of Slovakia’s capital and has remained a part of its genius loci until today, including its facades, churches...

Inventory No.: P 83

Artist: Alojz Rigele
Title: Cardinal Pázmány

Year: 1911
Technique: modelling, casting, patinating
Material: plaster
Dimensions: height 60 cm; width 30 cm; depth 30 cm
Signature: RIGELE 1911

Alojz Rigele was one of the most popular and respected sculptors in Bratislava. In the early 20th century, he helped create the image of Slovakia’s capital and has remained a part of its genius loci until today, including its facades, churches, fountains, parks, memorials and cemeteries. He was a skilled and diligent artist who was influenced mostly by Vienna’s classicism and Italian Renaissance. Some of his best known works that have remained a part of Bratislava are Queen Elisabeth’s (Sissi’s) marble relief in the Blue Church from 1913, Memorial to Soldiers Fallen in World War I located at Murmansk Height [Murmanská výšina] near Slavín from 1920 or a sculpture of Christ the Savior at the Salvator’s Pharmacy [Lekáreň U Salvatora] building on Panská Street from 1904. Besides his own projects, he also did stonemason work for other artists like Ján Koniarek or Vojtech Ihriský (e.g. Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav memorial by Vojtech Ihriský from 1938-1939 which is based on a famous sculpture in Hviezdoslavovo námestie [Hviezdoslav Square] in Bratislava and located in Oravský Podzámok). However, Rigele did not create just for his birth town of Bratislava, his works can be found in more than fifty towns all over Slovakia, including Trnava, Ružomberok, Piešťany, gardens of the Tovarníky Mansion, etc. The most famous one is a tomb and memorial of the Hungarian writer Imre Madách from 1936, located at the Madách family mansion in Dolná Strehová. Another famous work is a fountain with a sculpture made of artificial stone titled Girl with a Deer in Hviezdoslavovo námestie [Hviezdoslav Square] in Bratislava which is based on Rigele’s design and was created by another important Bratislava sculptor Robert Kühmayer after Rigele’s death in 1942. It is interesting to note there is a short connecting road between the square and the riverbank – Rigeleho ulica [Rigele Street].

Nitra Gallery’s collection includes a sculpture made of patinated plaster titled Cardinal Pázmány. It is a figure depicting a proposed model for Cardinal Péter Pázmány’s epitaph designed for Bratislava’s St Martin’s Cathedral. It was created for a competition announced in 1908 by the Provincial Council of Hungarian Fine Artists. The first prize was awarded by bishop Viliam Fraknói and it was a two-year scholarship in Rome. The first round of the competition had no winner. The second round won Rigele among 11 competitors. The statue’s grand unveiling was held on June 7, 1914 and its final form is very different from the original winning proposal. As Zsolt Lehel writes in Rigele’s monograph: “The marble epitaph of Cardinal Péter Pázmány was installed in the chancel’s northern wall in 1914. This neo-Renaissance memorial underwent years of adjustments to the client’s original concept. The final form had let go of many allegorizing details, focused on the cardinal’s humane qualities and produced a memorial to his most important literary work, the book of ‘Hodegus’. The epitaph is made of a single block of Carrara marble of the first class and its dimensions are 180 x 120 x 30 cm. While preparing for the process of copying his plaster casts into they final forms and materials, the artist used the assistance of an Italian stone sculptor and his teacher at Vienna’s academy, Angelo Celli. The epitaph is the last sculpture of their cooperation.” [1]

Plaster cast sculptures in various scales were often used as creative studies before the final bronze casting or stone carving processes began. Such models were later patinated and were also considered standalone works of art. Dating of the Nitra Gallery’s sculpture and its comparison with the epitaph’s original competition design from 1908 have revealed it is a scaled model of a later, refined proposal, but still featuring the original sitting composition of the figure. In comparison with the first version, Pázmány is wearing a cardinal hat. The final form features a completely different composition: the figure is standing, his right hand is holding a staff with the patriarchal cross, symbolizing the Archdiocese of Pressburg. In his left hand, he is holding the book of Hodegus – A Guide to God’s Truth from 1613 that was used as a reference book for re-Catholicising Hungary.

Péter Pázmány (Pázmány Péter in Hungarian: * October 4, 1570, Oradea – † March 19, 1637, Bratislava) was a Hungarian Roman Catholic bishop and cardinal, a Jesuit, the Archbishop of Esztergom, the Primate of Hungary, the Provost of Turiec, a philosopher, theologian, teacher, religious writer and politician. He was the head of the anti-Reformation movement in the Habsburg Monarchy, especially in Hungary. He played an important role in process of standardization of the Hungarian language. He spent a large part of his life at the territory of today Slovakia where he played an important role in the development of Trnava (he founded Trnava University in 1635) and Bratislava (in 1626, he founded Collegium Posoniense, today Secondary Grammar School on 18 Grösslingova Street). He is buried at St Martin’s Cathedral.

Alojz Rigele was born on February 8, 1879 in Pressburg, as they used to call Bratislava at the time. At the age of ten, he had already been exhibiting his works in the storefront window display of Karol Stampfel’s bookstore on Michalská Street. After his unsuccessful grammar school studies, he worked as an apprentice at the studio of Adolf Messmer, a Swiss decorative sculptor working in Bratislava at the time. As he was a hard worker, Messmer offered him an equal partnership at the studio, but Rigele refused as he was encouraged by Ján Fadrusz (the author of a famous group sculpture of Maria Theresa) to go and study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where he studied from 1901 to 1905 under professor Jan Bitterlich. He was awarded several times during his studies. From 1905 to 1907, he took a “special masters class” at the Vienna Academy led by professor Edmund Hellmer. In 1905, he got married to a Bratislava native Terézia Gallinová and also in 1905, their daughter Rozália was born in Vienna and in 1907, they had a son Ladislav. In 1907, the family moved to Bratislava. Between 1908 and 1910, he took up a scholarship in Rome. Upon his return, he refused a position of a professor at the school of modelling at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest and settled permanently in Bratislava in 1911. He temporarily rented his studio from a stonemason Karl Mahr. It was located in the courtyard of today 41 Štefánikova Street. Despite an enormous number of commisions (over 500 sculptures), he had not become wealthy and remained his whole life in his temporary studio that is still standing today. [2] He did not stop creating during World War I, but he worked as a staff writer and was a member of a military “art unit” (which consisted mostly of the wounded and unable of service) led by a well-known Bratislava architect Fridrich Weinwurm. From 1923 to 1940, Rigele was the president of the Pressburger Kunstverein art society, he was also a member of Bratislava’s Beautification Association. He died on February 14, 1940 in Bratislava where he is buried at the Ondrejský Cemetery.

[1] LEHEL, Zsolt: Alojz Rigele, Bratislava : Marenčin PT, 2008, ISBN 978-80-89218-56-1, p. 141-142.

[2] more about Alojz Rigele’s studio see: MIRZA, Omar (ed.): Rigeleho otvorený ateliér [Rigele’s Open Studio]. Bratislava : studiokubinsky, 2019, ISBN: 978-80-973561-0-1.

Omar Mirza
May 2020