Ignác Raab

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St. James the Greater by Ignác Viktorin Raab

Ignác Viktorin Raab (5 September 1715 – 2 February 1787) was a Czech Jesuit brother and is considered one of the most important Czech painters of the 18th century.

In his work can be traced the influence of Italian and Czech masters, such as Petr Brandl among others. His work is generally assigned to Rococo, but some remnants of the Baroque are still evident. Raab usually signed his works, because he considered this to be a right given to an author by God, who was the originator of his talent.

He was the author of a wide range of paintings and frescoes in various churches, monasteries and other religious buildings. Especially valuable are the altarpieces of the Churches of St. Ignatius and St. Nicholas in Prague. He is also accounted the author of the altarpieces in churches in Opava, Most Holy Trinity Church in Fulnek, and many others. Another two of his paintings, of Saints Odile and Thecla, are located on the side altars in the Church of St. Procopius in Letinech.


Raab was born in 1715 in Nechanice near Nový Bydžov as the twelfth child of his family. As a boy, he appeared to have a great talent for painting. His father František therefore decided to send him to Jičín in order to study art under painter Jan Jiří Major[spelling?], a disciple of painter Petr Brandl. He studied with him for seven years.

In 1744, at the age of 29, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. After two years as a brother novice in Brno, he was sent to Jesuit houses in Klatovy, Uherské Hradiště, University of Olomouc, Jihlava, Kutná Hora, and to Prague. There he was at St. Clement and later the college of St. Ignatius in the New Town. He was then sent to Opava. In his service at these sites, he worked primarily as a skillful hand painter. In addition, he also filled all kinds of supporting roles, such as table service (involving the preparation of meals for a common dining room) and care of elderly Jesuit companions. During this period, Raab produced an impressive amount of images. His painting was involved in the decoration of a series of new churches, large-scale cycles of the lives of saints in corridors of Jesuit colleges, and to a lesser extent, frescos.

The longest period of his Jesuit life was at the Clementinum in Prague, where he lived from 1758 to 1769 and again in 1771. There, he gradually created around him a painting workshop. In addition to composing paintings, Raab also produced drawings for works of sculpture, oversaw the quality of their implementation, and, if necessary, sculpted them himself. His Jesuit colleagues included the excellent painter Josef Kramolín.

Raab’s stay at the Accademia Clementina was only significantly interrupted in 1770, when he lived at St. Ignatius in the New Town of Prague. In the church of St. Ignatius, one can still see four altarpieces by Raab: St. Liborius, St. Francis Xavier (with a small painting of St. Thecla), St. Barbara, and St. Francis Borgia. Corridors of the adjacent dormitory buildings were originally decorated with three major life cycles of the Jesuit saints, namely St. Ignatius of Loyola (27 canvases; 24 of which are preserved at Bohosudov), St. Francis Xavier (29, of which 12 are preserved at Bohosudov) and St. John Francis Regis (21, all of which are now lost). Associated with these is a series of ten paintings in the refectory, which represent scenes from the Old and New Testaments relating to food (four remain the property of the Vyšehrad Chapter). He also produced series of St. Aloysius Gonzaga (21, still preserved in Štěkeň) and St. Stanislaus Kostka (26, preserved in Štěkeň) which were done at the Clementinum. Considering that these 137 images (92 of them hanging in the New Church of St. Ignatius and adjacent buildings) were completed in about three years (namely 1769-71), that the images in the series of the saints were of dimensions of approximately 2.2 x 2 meters, and that the vast amount of these works is of high quality, it is an amazing achievement. It is clear that Raab was helped in this work by his workshop, but the excellent quality found in them indicates the frequent and sometimes exclusive creative participation of the master alone.

In 1773, the Jesuit Order was abolished and Raab had to adapt to a whole new life. He eventually was accepted by the Cistercian monks of Velehrad. The quality of his work, however, gradually declined, with the light virtuosity of the Rococo style replaced with Classical elements.

In 1784, the Velehrad Monastery met the fate of many other religious houses in the Habsburg empire and was abolished. Although Raab’s hosts had to leave, he decided to stay. The rest of his life was spent in Velehrad, earning a livelihood from his artistic work. He died in 1787.

External links[edit]

This article was derived from translation of the corresponding article at Czech Wikipedia and the article at www.jesuit.cz.