MILDORFER, Joseph Ignaz
(b. 1719, Innsbruck, d. 1775, Wien)
Oil on canvas, 220 x 126 cm
Holy Spirit Church, Sopron
The Holy Spirit church in the city of Sopron, Hungary has two side-altars. One is the Holy Cross altar, about which the 1782 contract drawn up with the painter, István Dorffmaister and the sculptor, Ferenc Müller has remained to us. The other is the Pietà altar decorated by the picture exhibited here. Very early in the year 1783 a cabinet-maker was paid for having dissembled and reassembled the high altar and the two sidealtars in 1782. One of the (old) side-altars may have been the Pietà one whose altarpiece was perhaps made at the same time with the high altar's painting (cat. no 108Ö, as its technique of execution suggests. We consider both that altarpiece and this side-altarpiece as works made in the 1750's by Joseph Ignaz Mildorfer.
18th century Pietà compositions usually feature few figures: in most of them, there is but an angel to share the grief of Mary shown broken over her dead son. However, the Sopron altarpiece was composed by its painter from five figures, arranging St. John supporting Mary, Mary Magdalene wiping Christ's wounds and a woman embracing his hanging arm around the central figure of Christ himself lying in her mother's lap. The picture's basic tone is grim and dark. Its figures are almost bodyless. Glaring lights illuminate the faces depicted in sharp foreshortening and some widely fluttering draperies that make the composition almost burst. The figures of the windblown vision are mostly linked by the strange expressive forms of the strongly accentuated hands in a feature characteristic of Mildorfer's art in the style of the 1750s. His painting at Sopron is not related to his early Pietà (St. Moritzen bei Telfs, 1742) but rather to the sketch at Graz, similarly unquiet in the intensity of expression (Graz, Joanneum). Here again, similarly to many other works of his. Mildorfer set out from a composition by Troger: his figure of Christ is almost a paraphrase of Troger's Pietà in Vienna (Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien), yet without the latter's power of plasticity and confidence of composition.