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Art in Slovenia

Biedermeier and Romanticism

Marija Auersperg Attems

(Graz, 1816−1880)

(1840−1850), oil, panel, 39,5 x 31,5 cm
signed lower left: A.M. (monogram)

NG S 968, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

The floral still life featuring only roses is a remarkable document of the time in which it was created, as the bouquet combines heritage and modern rose varieties. In the centre of the bouquet is a white-flowering rose variety known since the Middle Ages, which is pleasantly scented and is still grown in rose plantations to produce rose oil. Other well-known roses include full-flowering pink roses, repeat-flowering hybrids that bloom several times a year. True red and yellow roses, on the other hand, were a novelty at the time. Both were first bred around a decade before the painting was made. Maria Auersperg Attems rendered the roses so accurately that she probably painted them from direct observation. As an avid gardener, she would have grown them in her rosarium. Further demonstrating her knowledge of plants, the artist included a real rose pest – a rose chafer, whose colour and shape add a charming decorative touch. The insect has climbed onto the flower in front of the vase and is nibbling intently on its petals.

Biedermeier and Romanticism
Heavily censored public life between the Congress of Vienna and the Spring of Nations in 1848, weakened Church patronage, and the ascending middle class marked the era when life focused on the privacy of the family circle, individual dignity and the sense of belonging; this is expressed in the Central European art as the style of Biedermeier which coexisted with a Romantic view of nature. 

Portraiture was the genre of painting that saw its heyday in this era. Matevž Langus, Jožef Tominc, Mihael Stroj and Anton Karinger established themselves as individually formed portraitists who demonstrated their self-confidence as artists also through their self-portraits. The painters initially relied on formal characteristics of Neoclassicism. Stroj’s late portraits and particularly those by Karinger abandoned the Biedermeier manner and adopted a more realistic approach. 

Interest in landscape first appeared as the background of portraits; towards the mid-century first autonomous city vedute emerged. The Biedermaier landscape is idyllic, descriptive, and furnished with staffage figures. Painters were attracted by tourist destinations and locations that were related to homeland identity: Mt. Triglav, Lake Bohinj, Bled. Anton Karinger and Marko Pernhart established themselves as explicit landscapists. The latter became famous for his multi-part panoramas from mountain peaks. 

Still lifes became an attractive decoration of a middle-class home, and they also found favour with amateur women painters, one of whom was Countess Maria Auersperg Attems.