Dražoević Jelić Family (artworks and documents)

In 2019 professor Ana Urukalo from Zagreb donated two valuable portraits to the Museum of Fine Arts. The portraits belonged to the prominent noble family Dražoević Jelić of Poljica and Omiš, who were intrinsically linked with Split, where the last of the family’s descendants, oenologist and professor Juraj Dražoević Jelić (1846 – 1897) had lived and died. The donator’s mother Ada, née Grubšić from Omiš was the granddaughter of Petronila Dražoević Jelić who was professor Juraj’s sister, and the family’s property was subsequently divided between his sisters.

The portrait depicts Colonel Petar Dražoević Jelić (1714 – 1768) as a young man with a Schiavona sword on his hip, a cane in the right and letter in his left hand which bears an inscription of his name: A Sua Ecc.(elenza) N.(obil) Sig.(nor) / Pietro Gielic Ven.(ezia). The painting has the original, carved and gilded 18th century frame. On 28 February 1735, Captain Petar Antun Dražoević Jelić (1714 – 1768) together with his brother Šimun Juraj and Karlo Julije and uncle Petar (1684 – 1785) asked, and received, from the Republic of Venice the certificate of nobility and the title of Conte. His wife was Francesca Papalić – Martinis. It was in those years, around 1745, that his portrait was rendered in the workshop of a Venetian painter, as indicated by the iridescent colours of his face and the nuanced tones of clothing that stand out against a neutral background. Although portrayed armed, Petar’s youthful face with large, lively eyes, prominent nose and lips appears as if it had not yet been marred by the atrocities seen on battlefields as part of Croatian and Albanian troops (Croatti a cavallo i Soldati Albanesi) in the service of the Republic of Venice, who were congregated in the Confraternity of St. Jerome with a seat at the eponymous altar in the Church of St. Simon in Zadar. For generations, members of this family were loyal fighters in those units who, in the (Venetian) government service, have been trying to help their homeland threatened by Turkish conquests.

The second portrait depicts Margarita Velmari Raisoni Alberti. The portrait is dated 1786 when Margarita was 64 years old (Margarita Velmari / Raiŝoni ora Alberti / D'Anni 64. / Añ. Dõmi: / 1786). Fashionably dressed, wearing assorted jewellery (earrings, hair accessories, a belt, pearl necklace, bracelets and a ring) she is portrayed holding a painted fan in her right hand. The fan is extant and included in the donation.

On this occasion, the Museum of Fine Arts is organizing an exhibition of these artworks, as an hommage to the magnanimous decision to permanently keep the said paintings in Split. Also included in the exhibition are other artworks and documents that belonged to Dražoević family, which are currently held in Split and Omiš (Omiš Town Museum, City Museum of Split, Museum of Fine Arts, Treasury of Split Cathedral, University Library). Among them is the gravestone from the Split Cathedral which stood over the tomb of Žarko Dražoević, a famous hero of battles against the Turks, carved in marble in 1508 and Katarina Dražoević’s monstrance from the Cathedral Treasury. It was commissioned, according to the inscription, by his widow Katarina in 1532 from the Venetian master Victor de Angelis. It is an exemplary Renaissance goldsmith’s work that cannot be seen in this form in any other Dalmatian church. Žarko is a remarkable personality who has become almost a legend with his heroism and perseverance in defence against the Turks. After the occupation of Poljica, he became an equestrian commander in the service of the Venetian Republic in Split, and he erected, by the River Cetina, fortresses of Nutjak near Trilj and Kunjak in Kučiće. It should be noted that Marko Marulić wrote two epitaphs dedicated to Žarko Dražoević and his tragic death in a Turkish ambush on his way from Split to Klis in January 1508. The family’s stone coat of arms comes from Omiš and it has, until recently, been located on their house next to the parish church, as well as a grave plaque with the coat of arms and an inscription from 1630 from the old cemetery. The inscription mentions that the tomb was erected by Juraj and Stjepan brothers Jelić Dražoević Croatian noblemen of Poljica. Brothers Petar, Juraj, Nikola and Stjepan Dražoević Jelić left Poljica in 1570 (ruins of their houses can still be detected in Tugare in the hamlet of Truša) threatened by Turkish conquests and, under Venetian government protection, they moved to Omiš. The altarpiece “Madonna and Child, St George, St Jelena and Donor” comes from the cemetery Church of St. Mary. The donor could very well be Juraj Dražoević Jelić who mentioned it in the grave inscription in 1630, which is precisely when the Venetian master Matej Ponzone Pončun (1584 – after 1663), who lived and worked in Split in the fourth decade of the 17th century, created the painting.

The exhibition also includes the portrait of Elizabeta Virginija Raison Jelić and the family’s coat of arms which are held in the City Museum of Split. The coat of arms includes two units: the first is composed of the family coat of arms with accompanying text and genealogy tree, and the second is a bound folder with documents on the recognition of nobility from the Republic of Italy in 1891. The texts were written and illustrated by Ante Bezić in Split.

Of particular value is the group of family documents, Venetian Dukala, documents and genealogies from the University Library in Split which are dated from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

Also exhibited are two paintings with religious content from the former family collection in Omiš, which are kept in the Museum of Fine Arts. They are “St Francis of Paola” and the “Holy Family,” works of 18th century Venetian masters that have previously been attributed to Federiko Benković. This opinion was based on the fact that Ivan Dražoević Jelić married Marija Benković who could have brought the said paintings as dowry.

This chamber-designed exhibition consolidates in one place different fragments, paintings, utilitarian objects, documents and photographs, from a former private collection of the prominent family from the Dalmatian past.

Radoslav Tomić