The story of a Viennese sculptor in Cluj-Napoca

Eva Poteaca | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Visiting new cities often means learning stories about people, objects or traditions and a great way to travel back in time. In this article, I would like to tell you the story of a Viennese sculptor in Cluj-Napoca.

The characters

The Obelisk of Francis I and Caroline Augusta is the first lay monument in Cluj-Napoca and one of the most important neoclassical monuments in Transylvania. This story begins with the context and why this monument was built: it was the imperial visit in 1817 of Francis I, the emperor of the Austrian Empire and Carolina Augustina, his wife. Then we have the most important characters of the story: the Viennese sculptor Josef Klieber, the architects Georg Winkler and Samuel Nágy, who made the initial plans, Peter Nobile a member of the Academy of Fine Arts who supervised the work and Imre Topler the commissionar of this art piece.

Where should we start?

Let’s back up a little though. 1817 the imperial couple visited parts of Transylvania and this event meant a lot to the municipality of Cluj-Napoca. It was also the moment when the idea of a commemorative monument was born. After that the initial plans were made by Georg Winkler and Samuel Nágy. Twelve years later, there was a construction that had been carried out without a satisfying result.

The commission

1829 Josef Klieber, a well-known Viennese sculptor was contracted by Imre Topler. He was commissioned to finish this project and design the scene representing Carolina Augusta and the four sculptures above the obelisk base. The other reliefs made by Josef Klieber were taken directly from the sketches of Georg Winkler. Peter Nobile, a member of the Academy of Fine Arts, was appointed to supervise the works in Cluj-Napoca, and to formally correct the preliminary sketches. The Viennese Academy of Fine Arts approved the construction of this monument but the emperor himself disapproved the initial plan, arguing the monument did not correspond to the "good taste" the Academy promised and asked for some modifications.

Josef Klieber sculpture in Baden, Austria

The visit

Klieber spent 10 weeks in Cluj-Napoca, and according to his autobiography, he came here to make four reliefs and four eagles. The visit was aimed to execute on-site artworks for which he was contracted. Parts of this sculptures, representing a winged creature and imperial portraits, were brought from Vienna, as the artist describes in his autobiography.

The Obelisk of Francis I and Caroline Augusta

The end

Let’s not forget about the end of the story. After Josef Kliebers visit, the monument was revealed in 1831 at his initial place, near the gothic church in Cluj-Napoca. Due to his visit and his contribution, the monument was approved by the emperor and the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts. Sadly the commissioner went bankrupt investing everything in this neoclassical monument, that you can visit today.

I hope you enjoyed the story and during your visit in Cluj-Napoca you will remember the story of a Viennese sculptor when looking at the monument.

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