History Of Croatians In Mother’s Image

"History of Croatians" sculpture by Ivan Mestrovic in marble

“History of Croatians”
sculpture by Ivan Mestrovic
in marble

It’s Mother’s Day today and I pay special tribute to a most special mother to Croatians.

Eighty-three years ago, in 1932, Croatian world-renowned artist and sculptor Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1962) created a marvelous sculpture through which he would interpret and symbolise the history of the Croatian people. Ivan Mestrovic’s sculpture of a mother, his mother, holding on her lap a stone tablet with “History of Croatians” engraved in the old Croatian script Glagoljica on its spine, has become a companion of Croats wherever they may go or wherever they are. She is the keeper of the Croatian identity; she is the keeper of the Croatian heritage. Ivan Mestrovic entrusted unto the mother the keeping and the nurturing of Croatian people’s heritage and the people had embraced that mother, as it is also a symbol of Homeland.

Through this sculpture Ivan Mestrovic presents the Croatian homeland as a humble, dignified and a strong woman to whom he entrusts the keeping of Croatians’ heritage, tradition and identity.

This mother that holds the History of Croatian people on her lap has become the sculpture of identity; Croatian identity. She has long ago impressed the symbol of her image and meaning on the minds of Croatian people; she is worn as a charm elegantly swaying from gold neck-chains; miniatures of her image are carefully crafted as keepsakes and adorn workplaces and homes alike; pictures of her are framed; her image imprinted on a page of the Croatian passport…
Made in 1932, Mestrovic’s original marble statue of History of Croatians was intended for the building of the first Museum of Croatian Sculptures in Knin. But, in 1934 the sculpture made in marble from the Island of Brac was taken to the Royal palace park at Dedinje in Belgrade in Serbia (Capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, headed by Serbian dynasty) for a temporary exhibition – it is still there today! The borrowed sculpture had not been returned. To the end of his life Mestrovic kept on writing letters to Belgrade asking that the marble statue of History of Croatians be returned to where it belongs, to its homeland (Croatia) and be placed in the Museum of Croatian Antiquities. Sadly, he was unsuccessful; the Serbian King who ignored the artist’s calls for the return of his work after the exhibition in Belgrade stole Mestrovic’s sculpture.

Ivan Mestrovic's  "History of Croatians" stolen Sculpture still in the royal park in Belgrade, Serbia

Ivan Mestrovic’s
“History of Croatians” stolen Sculpture
still in the royal park in
Belgrade, Serbia

Serbia refused to return the sculpture that rightfully belongs to Croatia even after the fall of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, even after the fall of the subsequent communist Yugoslavia…even after it’s royal family has returned to live there after spending decades in exile…

For the occasion of 300th anniversary of the foundation of Zagreb University, Croatia, a bronze copy of the sculpture was made in 1970 and installed at the front entrance of the Faculty of Law where the office of the University Rector is also located. Although originally intended for the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments the sculpture has thus also become the protector of the University!

Ivan Mestrovic's "History of Croatians"  Bronze sculpture at Zagreb University as it stands today in 2015

Ivan Mestrovic’s
“History of Croatians”
Bronze sculpture at
Zagreb University as it stands today in 2015

The story of the fate of the original marble sculpture, the fact that it was stolen by Serbian King and kept by Serbia when the Kingdom fell, illustrates clearly the poignant story of Croatian history: kept hostage, stolen, oppressed throughout centuries. But mother is a symbol of selfless love and that is what Croatia enjoys from the multitudes that had defended it from Serb aggression and freed it from communist oppression. The love will endure! Perhaps once the politicians and the international arbitrators finally get around to finalising the state succession of former Yugoslavia, Croatia will have a good chance of securing the rightful place for this sculpture; the place where it belongs – Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Thank you, Ina,
    for sharing this interesting piece of history. It’s an elegant sculpture.

    Big Hugs


  2. Reblogged this on IdealisticRebel's Daily View of Favorites and commented:
    This is a beautiful sculpture. The artist was very talented. Happy Mother’s Day my friend. Hugs, Barbara

  3. Interesting story of the beautiful piece of art of the rich meaning.

  4. The artist was right; mothers all over the world are the keepers and passers on of heritage. I hope you get your statue back some day, but the bronze looks good and to have it guarding the centre of learning is great.

  5. Happy Mother’s day

  6. I hope this potent symbol of Croatian motherhood is returned one day.It’s obvious the artist never renounced his claim on it right up to the last.
    Happy Mother’s Day Ina
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Thank you, David. It would be nice and decent if it was returned but if not Croats would still cherish it as it is an inseparable part of Croatia no matter where it is, it’s just ugly to know it was stolen in effect.

  7. Sad but truth the Sculpture will never be returned !!! Happy Mother’s Day Ina.

    • Thank you, Rajka. When one deals with dishonest people one expects dishonesty regardless of sadness it causes – but the sculpture has its spirit and that spirit is in our hearts, which, I guess, is more important than marble even if I do hope the marble is returned one day

  8. Looks like a wonderful piece of art, Ina. The unfortunate story behind this highly symbolic sculpture is also very interesting.

    • Thank you, Graham – interesting is what the fate of the marble sculpture’s has been and a learning point about morality and immorality of some.

  9. Amazing piece of sculpture and I found reading the history fascinating.. .

    Peace to you Ina.. Love Sue x

  10. Thank you for sharing this! I can’t believe Serbia won’t return this magnificent statue – but good that there is a replica. How maddening.

  11. Wasn’t Ivan Mestrovic a Freemason?
    He was commissioned to do a lot of sculptures in Serbia and many of them have Masonic symbols. I am not a fan of his work. It looks cold to me.
    I wish Serbia would get rid of ALL of it – send it to Croatia or sell that which Croats don’t want.

    • Would not know if Mestrovic was a freemason, JJ, but even if he was that was his private choice and right. m not aware of any sculptures in Serbia with Masonic symbols and these if they exist do not interest me in any particular way, it would be a good idea if you then wrote a letter to Serbian authorities to return the History of Croatians to Croatia, but I doubt you would do that

  12. Big thanks Inavukic….💗💗💗

  13. Fascinating. Thank you.

    The Stone of Scone, on which the Kings of Scots were crowned, was stolen and taken to England where it still is, now in Westminster Abbey, used in the crowning of our united monarchs.

    • If the Scots never asked for it back then it’s OK, Clare – I think. Nowadays then the Stone of Scone would symbolise a part of the monarchy. Serbian monarchy though never shared or wanted to share, just take, take and take..

      • We united freely, and still many of us want to split apart. The Separatist party won most of the parliamentary seats in Scotland, this month.

      • I know, Clare, I followed the UK elections with interest. When Kingdom of Yugoslavia was Created after WWI from 6 different states/nations none of which had been in union with Serbia, it was a creatiuon of wealth and power for Serbian monarchy, helped along with King George VI who of course was a cousin of Serbian King Aleksandar who married in Queen Victoria’s line..Croatian Parliament never ratified to unite into that Kingdom but what the Serbian King with support from outside did was to form a so-called Croatian National Council of about 10 people and then got them to sign in the name of Croatia to join his kingdom – very pathetic and sad…there was a great deal of oppression there in that kingdom just as there was after in under communist Yugoslavia…oh, big stories

  14. Good Morning, ma’am Ina…Is it okey for you if I nominate you for The Versatile Blogger award? I already did !..Pls. see the rules, ma’am….at : https://thehutownerblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/versatile-blogger-award-2/
    thank you…

  15. how come Croatians speak Serbian ?

  16. Love the statue. What a great monument for mother’s day. Thanks for sharing the little story behind it, Ina. 🙂

  17. She represents her people well – strong, determined & beautiful.
    Excellent article – cant believe the original is not where she belongs.

  18. Very interesting article, but I have a question.

    “keeping of Croatians’ heritage, tradition and identity.”

    Is this actually desirable? What if I changed “Croatian’s” to something else?

  19. Great post 🙂

  20. King Alexander I of Yugoslavia bought this beautiful marble sculpture personally from the artist after 1934. The two were considered close friends – you can find Mestrovic’s views on politics in his memoirs “Memories of Political People and Events”, 1969. Also Mate Mestrovic – son of Ivan Mestrovic talked about this, amongs meny other things in an interview to AtlasTV- link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLGnc-OVaq0


  1. […] The sculpture, beloved to Croatians, “History of Croatians” by Ivan Mestrovic, is illustrated on the back of our banknote. She, a woman, as Mother, sits serenely, with a massive tome in her lap, a book identified on its spine as the “History of Croatians”. She is the keep og the Croatin identity, culture and history. A moving tribute is in this blog post here. […]

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