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Art in Slovenia


Franc Kavčič/Caucig

(Gorizia, 1755 – Vienna, 1828)

Venus, Cupid and Peristera
(before 1810), oil, canvas, 103 x 180 cm

NG S 3348, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
Venus ( Greek Aphrodite ), the goddess of flowers, gardens and love, once had a contest with her winged son cupid ( greek Eros ). In a landscape abundant in flowers they competed as to who would collect more flowers. Cupid was flying from blossom to blossom and things were not favourable for Venus. The nymph Peristera secretly came to help her and Venus finally won. However, Cupid realized the trick and he punished the nymph by turning her into a dove ( peristera means the dove in old Greek ).From this time onwards the dove faithfully accompanied Venus and become one of her attributes. As to Peristera, Boccaccio mentions that she was from Corinth, and supposedly a lady of easy virtue, who wanted to compete with Venus in appearence and beauty.

Preservation: The painting was probably not much restored; minor retouches were traced only on the left figure. Relining has been done with wax adehsive and the canvas has been streched on a new frame.
Restored: 2006, Kemal Selmanović, Ljubljana
Provenance: Before 1810: painted for Palais Auersperg in Vienna; 1953: the painting in thr Kronprinz Rudolf Saal was bought, together with the palace, by consul Alfred Weiss. After his death the palace was sold in 1987; 2006: the National Gallery of Slovenia bought the painting from a private art collctor of Vienna.
Exhibition: Franc Kavčič/Caucig; Paintings for Palais Auersperg in Vienna; National Gallery of Ljubljana, 24 October 2007 - 10 February 2008
Lit: Annalen 1810, p. 359 (several scenes from Gessner's Idylls and after Athenaeus in the palace of prince Auersperg in Vienna ); Boeckh 1825, p. 328 8 twelve paintings, part landscapes part histories ); Kukuljević 1858, p. 153 (various paintings showing the " environs " and historical scenes ); Palais Auersperg, c. 1957, p. 23 ( Green Hall, overdoors showing mythological scenes are good works by an Italian painter of the end of 18th c. ).

Franc Kavčič/Caucig was an important representative of European Neo-classicist painting. Even though he depicted stories from Greco-Roman antiquity, his ethical message is fully contemporary and mirrors the time of great social changes. 

In the 1780s, Kavčič was trained in Rome where he drew also at the French Academy at the time of the second sojourn of Jacques Louis David in the Eternal City, and when Angelika Kauffmann occupied the former residence of Anton Raphael Mengs. After more than twenty years of professorship at the Vienna art academy, Kavčič was appointed director of its painting and sculpture school. He also led the painting department of the Viennese porcelain factory, and towards the end of his life he became an honorary member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Several of his compositions thus appeared on the products of the imperial porcelain works. 

His paintings are characteristic for their compositional monumentality and clarity, impeccable modelling by means of sharp drawing, thin polished paintlayers, underlined role of female protagonists in his scenes, and academic reserve. He relied for his motifs on the rich treasury of classical history and mythology as well as biblical stories. The Old-Testament Judgement of Solomon as a narrative of the ruler’s wisdom was thus a very suitable subject matter for the prestigious commission from Emperor Francis I. As to literary sources, Kavčič was inspired by the Idylls of Salomon Gessner. The painter’s landscapes are of the Arcadian type, they are ideal and thoughtfully composed in accord with classical rules and his travel memories. They contain architectural vestiges of the glorious past and are animated by means of tiny pastoral scenes. 

The painting output by Kavčič had some influence on his numerous Viennese students in the first half of the 19th century, while in the history of art he also left trace by taking part in the intense polemics with the members of the Brotherhood of St Luke, when he defended the then already conservative ideas.