Angels and Mysteries of Johann Georg Pinsel

Johann Georg Pinsel is a mystery. Nobody knows where he was born, where he studied or even if Pinsel is his real name. The only thing that is certain is that he could make wood shed blood and tears. Last summer I found myself in the small town of Buchach where Pinsel worked and died. In just ten years, between 1750 and 1760, he created a series of sculptures and carvings of extraordinary drama and complexity. Pinsel’s angels flutter, his saints grieve, his Christ extends his hand to you in mercy.


From 28 October 2016 to 12 February 2017, the Belvedere in Vienna will honor this Baroque master, giving viewers a rare chance to see his work up close. He was active in the western Ukrainian region of Lviv (Lemberg during his lifetime) and decorated many churches in the region with his wood and stone sculptures.

Many art historians compare the power of his work to that of Michelangelo, and the only reason you haven’t heard of Pinsel is because his work came to light fairly recently. Like much of Ukraine, Pinsel’s masterpieces were affected by the terrible events of the 20th century. Just to give you an example: Lviv changed hands no fewer than eight times between 1914 and 1945. Then the Soviets destroyed the churches where Pinsel’s sculptures were housed. It’s a miracle that any of his works have survived.

Wood is a delicate material. It burns. It crumbles. It decays. But looking at Pinsel’s figures, I can’t help feeling that they’re alive and not mere wood. If you have a chance to visit Vienna over the holidays, please don’t miss the exhibit. Perhaps you will fall under the same spell that this mysterious artist cast over me.

The Belvedere Winterpalais
Heavenly! The Baroque Sculptor Johann Georg Pinsel
28 October 2016 to 12 February 2017

For more exhibit information, please see the Belvedere website.

More details via the Belvedere: “This exhibition, which will showcase some thirty exhibits by Pinsel’s hand, is the first to present this important sculptor in Austria. Juxtaposed with works from the Belvedere’s holdings by such Austrian painters of the Late Baroque as Franz Anton Maulbertsch, Paul Troger, and Johann Lucas Kracker, they will unfold a Baroque spectacle of expressive painting and carving in the rooms of the Winterpalais.”

Image via They have many other striking examples of Pinsel’s work on their website, such as this one.



  • Nick: And, drop by K.u.K Demel for the Sachertorte l and Café Central for the Kaiserschmarrn (Emperor’s Folly) 🙂 December 19, 2016 at 9:07am Reply

    • Victoria: And while we’re at it, CaféCouture in the gorgeous Palais Ferstel Passage is a must for excellent coffee and a memorable olfactory experience. It’s one of the best roasters in the city. December 19, 2016 at 9:22am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Café Schwarzenberg for Topfentorte and Linzertorte!

        I am vegetarian, but in Vienna I could not resist the Tafelspitz. mit Kren! December 19, 2016 at 10:53am Reply

        • AndreaR: In 2007 my husband and I were in a church in Passau and the guide pointed out a sculpture by Pinsel adding that 2007 was The Year of Master Pinsel. In 2008 we were in Horodenka, Ukraine, southeast of Buchach. We were in a Ukrainian Catholic church and the caretaker pointed out a small plaque attributed to Pinsel. It only makes sense to see the Pinsel exhibit in Vienna and meet all of you for tortes and coffee and perhaps a glass of champagne at the Hotel Sacher. December 19, 2016 at 11:50am Reply

          • Nick: Sounds like a plan, AndreaR. December 20, 2016 at 1:10am Reply

          • Victoria: A friend introduced me to Pinsel’s work, and I have since visited nearly all places where his sculptures have been preserved. I hope to make it to Vienna next year, since this exhibit sounds wonderful, and Vienna is far easier for me to visit than Buchach! Although Buchach was charming too, with lots of history and set in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Ukraine. December 20, 2016 at 5:11am Reply

          • Victoria: Andrea, also, if you don’t mind, I’d love to share the link you sent me:

            Those who would love more info on Pinsel might want to take a look. December 20, 2016 at 5:35am Reply

        • Victoria: I never knew that boiled meat could be so delicious. Yes, a dinner of Tafelspitz is another must in Vienna. December 20, 2016 at 5:08am Reply

        • Wym: Plachutta’s Tafelspitz is the best. I love their Schnittlauchsauce and of course Apfelkren. December 20, 2016 at 9:26am Reply

          • Victoria: I’m getting hungry reading this thread. 🙂 December 20, 2016 at 8:51pm Reply

    • Wym: Or better–go to Hotel Sacher and Demel and try Sachertorte at both places. December 20, 2016 at 9:31am Reply

      • Victoria: That’s probably true. This cake rivalry can only be settled by a taste test. December 20, 2016 at 8:52pm Reply

      • Nick: Team Demel for me hehe. December 21, 2016 at 8:31pm Reply

  • Nick: Duly noted. Next on my list after Brussels! December 19, 2016 at 9:33am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 Not to mention all of the other marvellous spots for art in the city. December 20, 2016 at 5:12am Reply

  • zephyr: Would love to see Pinsel’s work; it sounds amazing. I hope there are more exhibitions of his pieces! December 19, 2016 at 2:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’d love that too. His art is so moving, so full of emotion. December 20, 2016 at 5:13am Reply

  • Karen A: Thank you (again!!) for broadening my horizons! December 19, 2016 at 7:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m happy to share! I only discovered his work two years ago. I think that he’s appeared on the art historians’ radar mostly in the early 1990s. There was a great exhibit in the Louvre, but I only have a brochure; I haven’t seen the exhibit itself. December 20, 2016 at 5:16am Reply

  • Wym: I don’t live in Vienna itself but I’ll be visiting for Christmas. I’m going to find time for this exhibit. December 20, 2016 at 9:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Great! Do let me know how you like it. December 20, 2016 at 8:52pm Reply

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