Permanent Galleries

The Ashbaugh Madonna, 1917



Ivan Meštrovi´c
The Ashbaugh Madonna, 1917
Croatian-American, 1883–1962
walnut
61 x 25.5 inches (154.94 x 64.77 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Russell G. Ashbaugh, Jr.
1973.074

The life of Ivan Meštrović, a journey from impoverished peasant beginnings to international fame and recognition, reads like a fairytale. Throughout his career, his sculpture presented his changing attitude toward two of the most difficult issues for human beings to resolve—nationalism and religion. Because Meštrovi´c chose to spend the last years of his life at Notre Dame as sculptor in residence, the University’s campus has become a repository for works of art that tell his remarkable story.

When Meštrovi´c was growing up in the mountains near Split, that region of Croatia was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, a stonemason and a Catholic, taught him history through the epic songs composed by fourteenth-century poets to immortalize the defeat of the Serbian Orthodox Christians by the Muslim Turks in 1389 at the Battle of Kosovo. After training as a sculptor at the Academy of Art in Vienna, Meštrovi´c began a project that was so ambitious he could never complete it. He aimed to use sculpture and architecture to show how an artist could promote the idea of a new, independent nation formed by people of different backgrounds who agreed to share a synthetic culture to create a single, national ideal.