The Rijeka audience is proud of its Theatre, and the view of the paintings that adorn its vaulted ceiling is an integral part of every visit and theatrical experience in Rijeka.
The eminent Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer conceived this exceptional and complete interaction of theatre and fine arts, which was realized by the brothers Gustav and Ernst Klimt and Franz Matsch, who painted fascinating oils on canvas in 1884. As the paintings were made to order and intended for the vaulted ceiling of the Rijeka theatre, they are thematically and proportionally adapted to the view from the auditorium.
We gladly welcomed the professional restoration of the paintings, which were removed from their original position for the first time since 1885. After the exhibition at the City Museum of Rijeka, we look forward to the return to their rightful place – the vault of the theatre. The audience will then be able to enjoy them once again, not only from the ground floor and the theatre boxes, but also during the program of guided theatre tours, which have always been popular in our Theatre, especially among children and tourists.
The theatrical ceiling paintings are a valuable artistic work of the Rijeka Theatre, and are also the main attraction of the Zajc Gallery, a new project of the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc. The gallery will interpret the history and present of the theatre, highlighting the fascinating works of Gustav Klimt and inviting visitors to the “Klimt Viewing Platform” – the highest floor in the auditorium with specially positioned seats that offer undisturbed enjoyment of the paintings.
As Dr. Irena Kraševac points out: “A review of theatre interior decorations (in Croatia) led to the conclusion that the only theatre that has preserved its complete original appearance, as planned and realized at the time of the opening of the theatre building, is the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka. The nine paintings inserted in the cartouches have withstood the hardships of time since 1885 to finally await restoration and proper presentation at the exhibition before finally being mounted at their original site.”
As a reminder, Gustav Klimt is the creator of the three oils on canvas, “Poetry or Orpheus and Eurydice,” “Instrumental Music or St. Cecilia,” and “Serious Opera or Mark Antony and Cleopatra.” Franz Matsch painted the three other theatrical ceiling paintings, and the painting above the proscenium was created by Ernst Klimt, as well as the two paintings depicting angels above the side boxes.