The birth house of Vlaho Bukovac and mausoleum of the Račić ship owner family, as well as the first piece by Ivan Meštrović, are reason for thousands of visitors to travel to Cavtat each year. (Photo: Tomislav Šikić) The birth house of Vlaho Bukovac and mausoleum of the Račić ship owner family, as well as the first piece by Ivan Meštrović, are reason for thousands of visitors to travel to Cavtat each year. (Photo: Tomislav Šikić)

From Italy to Croatia – from Faggioni to Bukovac

Italian mariner Giuseppe Faggioni had a naval accident near Cavtat. Thrilled by the small city and its inhabitants, and falling in love with Ana Kličan, a young woman from Cavtat, he remained there, married her and had three children. One of them, Agostino, continued his life in the family home where his son was also born – the future great painter and founder of modern Croat painting, Vlaho Bukovac.

At only 11 years of age, he travelled with his uncle to America. Following his uncle's death he returned to Cavtat only to join the merchant marines and travel the world. There are various stories about how he began to paint – from one saying that he started while recovering from injuries after falling into a ship's storage or even earlier, in a juvenile delinquent jail in New York.

Whatever the case, upon his return to Cavtat he realized that his future is in painting, while the exhibited “Turkish Women in Harem”, the first work he showed to his fellow citizens, astounded them and evoked disbelief that a simple home town youth could have painted it. The rest is history: little Faggioni changed his name to Bukovac, went to Paris, became one of the “Zagreb Colourful School”, exhibited in Pest, returned to Cavtat and lived for the remainder of his life between Prague and Cavtat, receiving world fame.

The Bukovac House – a must see in Cavtat

A typical city house from the end of the 18th century, located in one of the small streets that leads from the waterfront, it is a stone, two-story, house that hides a complete Bukovac micro world inside. All of the walls of the old portion of the house are painted by Bukovac's hand in tempera, which was a gift by the sixteen year old to his father. In the house today, besides a museum exhibit dedicated to Bukovac, a multifunctional hall and space are located that enables the city, which has a sensational way of life, to maintain a dynamic museum life throughout the year.

The curator of the Bukovac House Lucija Vuković points out that the pictures “Cabinet of Future Fame and Memory of a Family stand out due to their oddity and sort of horror”. They are a question of Bukovac's intimate protest against fascination with the unconventional that his students demonstrated at the time and the morbid depression the once happy Bukovac, finding himself far away from home, fell into due to his mother's illness and longing for his home. The permanent exhibit at the museum is comprised of Bukovac works from all of his phases as a painter – Paris, Zagreb, Cavtat and Prague.

The Bukovac house has become an unavoidable place for guests and citizens of Cavtat, where more than 7 000 visitors arrive each year.

The Račić Mausoleum - a place founded out of family sorrow

Although small, Cavtat offers something interesting at every step. One of the most special, but also most unusual places in the city is the Mausoleum of the Cavtat ship owning family Račić, the first work of our great sculptor Ivan Meštrović.

It presents a fascinating fusion of architecture and sculpture. Meštorvić also received recognition for it – the Grand Prize at the International Exhibit of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art in Paris in 1925. It is built of white rock from the island of Brač in the shape of a dome and there is not a single piece of wood or other material except bronze, which was used for the door and bell. The bell, poured according to Meštrović's design, has an inscription with the author's unique thought: “Discover the secret of love and you will solve the mystery of death and believe that life is eternal”.