The mural is massive, it is impossible to see it all at once. It tells the story of Tito’s partisan army defeat of the German army from 1941 to 1945. The story reads from left to right culminating in the death blow to the invader and the blossoming of the cherry tree on the right. Pengov used a progression of increasing brightness which is not well recorded in my composite image but the light in the painting gets stronger from left to right too. Pengov was both a pacifist and an anti-Bolshevik (he depicted Lenin as Judas Iscariot at the Last Supper in another work in 1930). He is said to have made this work under duress and added his own comment on the war in it. I was lucky to get to see the mural as part of a guided tour of Villa Bled and I did my best to record the mural with a handheld compact camera and harsh lighting from above.
The first vignette shows the foundation of the Partisan army as a reaction to atrocity, a passenger train has been derailed and local people are called to arms. Pengov was instructed to show a freight train but painted a passenger one instead to underline the civil cost of the war.
The next scene shows the army organise, the figure with his back to us is thought to be Tito himself:
Pengovs next personal statement was to include the defence of the Muslim community by the Partisan army by showing the call for the defence of Bosnia:
The capture of an Italian prisoner shows real fear in the eyes of the captive. The italian occupying forces conducted a brutal policy of ethnic repression.
The movement of the Liberation Army follows the convention of left to right for the background figures.
The 3rd personal statement from Pengov is thought to be the depiction of the bespectacled German soldier, a symbol of the innocent intellectual lost to the war.
The liberation army finaly rid the territory of axis forces with the help of the Red Army and the new nation was, like the cherry tree, able to blossom:
The end wall of the Banqueting Hall is decorated with a second, massive mural: the rise of the new nation:
Pengov painted all the faces from life, his models for the entire scheme were the German PoWs who were used to build the residence.
The face of ‘Mother Yugoslavia’ is oddly masculine and the gesture of the child is very Christ like, perhaps further comment from Pengov:
I am most grateful to the tour guides from Crystal Holidays who arranged the visit and supplied the historical background.