The year of Academician Vladimir R. Petković

In 2024, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts celebrates the year of Academician Vladimir R. Petković (b. 17/30 September 1874 – d. 13 November 1956), one of our foremost art historians, a full professor of the University of Belgrade, director of the National Museum and director of the Archaeological Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences.

His scientific and pedagogical work in the field of the foundation of art history as a scientific discipline at the University of Belgrade and in Serbia is considered pioneering. In the period 1921-1935, which he spent in the position of the National Museum director, he greatly contributed to the preservation of artwork and cultural treasures of our country.

He completed his BA studies at the Philological and Historical Department of the Belgrade Higher School in the period 1893-1897. He studied for his doctoral degree in art history and archaeology at the universities in Munich and Halle, with renowned professors Karl Krumbacher and Adolph Goldschmidt. His PhD, he received in 1905 from the University of Halle, with a dissertation on a famous early-Christian relief representing resurrection which is being kept at the National Museum in Munich.

Following his return to the country, he started to work as a part-time professor at the Faculty of Technical Sciences in Belgrade. He was elected an assistant professor in 1911, at the Faculty of Philosophy, where he established the Seminar for Art History in 1919. During that year, he was elected associate professor, finally becoming a full professor in 1922. The first generations of academically educated art historians in our country are the results of his pedagogical work. He held lectures at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Belgrade between 1923 and 1941.

As a corresponding member of the Serbian Royal Academy, he was elected in 1932, and he became a full member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences in 1948. Since its foundation in 1947 and until 1956, he carried out the duties of the director of the Archaeological Institute of SAS.

He published several overviews of Serbian medieval art including two editions in French titled La peinture Serbe du Moyen Âge (1930, 1934). He authored monographs on Serbian monasteries Žiča in 1906, Ravanica in 1922, Studenica in 1924 and Kalenić in 1926, while the monumental work titled ‘The Monastery of Dečani’ in 1941, he wrote with Đ. Bošković. He also dedicated his research to historical compositions, and portraits of Serbian saints, ktetors and rulers: ‘The Line of the Nemanićs in the Old Paintings (1926), Portraits from Psača (1929), Death of Queen Ana in Sopoćani (1930), the Legend of Saint Sava in Old Serbian Art (1933). He explored antique elements in old Serbian art, researching their origin. He published a great number of articles on Serbian medieval churches in the journal Starinar, having been its editor-in-chief between 1931 and 1956.

There is a research which he published in 1927 in which he reconstructed the impact of a Serbian workshop at the end of the 14th century. He conducted excavation works in two large archaeological sites, one of them in Stobi (1923-1934) and Justiniana Prima between 1937 and 1939, which were recorded in numerous reports and in a special study titled ‘Antique Sculptures from Stobi’ which was published in 1930.

Through his scientific work, he left an indelible mark on Serbian historiography, particularly the history of art.