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Exhibitions and Projects
25 October 2007–2 March 2008

Franc Kavčič/Caucig

Paintings for the Palais Auersperg in Vienna

The exhibition presents twelve hitherto unknown and unpublished oils and thirteen related compositional designs and study drawings. Before 1810, these paintings were executed for Palais Auersperg in Vienna by the Gorizian Neoclassicist painter Franc Kavčič/Francesco Caucig (Gorizia 1755 – Vienna 1828).

From 2005 onwards, eight of the exhibited paintings were gradually purchased for the National Gallery of Slovenia with the funds of the Ministry of Culture; two paintings were donated. On loan are two paintings from a private collector of Vienna and eleven drawings from the Kupferstichkabinett der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna. One drawing is housed in the Fondazione Coronini Cronberg in Gorizia and is exhibited in reproduction.

The subject-matter of the paintings is taken from Classical literature (self-enamoured Narcissus; story of the exposed baby Semiramis Fed by the Doves). Never before has any idyllic story after the Swiss writer Salomon Gessner (1730–1788) been presented in the National Gallery. Now, there are several on display: The Tomb of Mycon, the last resting place of a righteous man who had a grove planted, so that pilgrims on their way to the nearby temple of Apollo could take a rest in the shade there; The Origin of Plucking Strings and of Singing; The First Boatman, a story about the invention of the boat; a scene with Daphnis Introducing His Bride Phillis to His Father; then The First Boatman Meets Semira and her Daughter Melida; and Amyntas, a Dryad and a Saved Oak.The subject-matter of the picture Venus, Cupid and Peristera – or the contest between Venus and her son Cupid in pickig up flowers – possibly originates in the late Antiquity. It was familiar to the Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375), who wrote it down. The question remains open about the literary source and the correct identification of the motif in the painting Socrates with a Disciple and Diotima.

Besides the depictions of Gessner's idyllic stories, of special interest at this exhibition are four oils featuring the so-called idyllic, heroic and Arcadian landscapes. Two of them show the peaceful, contented, blessed life of simple shepherds and fishermen (Ideal Landscape with a Bridge and Amphitheatre; Landscape with a Fisherman) and two depict the bygone heroic world of monumental architectural and sculptural creations of the Antiquity: Ideal Landscape with a Young Man Killing a Snake and Landscape with the Motif of a Nymphaeum in Domitian's Villa. The former is characterized by a mighty ruin of a Roman aqueduct over which water falls, and the latter by a splendid ruin of a nymphaeum and a sculpture of a stern river god before it, with two young men engaged in serious discussion at the front.

Caucig is an artist of the time and style of Neoclassicism – the artistic trend that possessed a great knowledge and skill of how to depict episodes and scenes from the ancient world, from which ethical and symbolic meanings and doctrines emanated. Young painters' training was rigorous and disciplined. They had to practice drawing for a very long time, they were taught about the importance of lines, of the beauty of correct contours and supple flow of strokes, of the significance of properly presented space and the balance of the distribution of figures and objects in it. Caucig's works testify that his training was successful and that he learned well how to draw and paint in the spirit of Neoclassicism, to which he adhered all his life. His training took place first in Vienna, then in Bologna and particularly in Rome and also in Venice. Credit for the formation of the well-educated and talented artist goes no doubt to his patron count Philipp Cobenzl (Ljubljana 1741 – Vienna 1810), who, by way of his official posts and through his friends and acquaintances, established connections with local and foreign members of the Enlightenment, philosophers, scientists, naturalists and artists.

From among the artists of Slovene origin, Franc Kavčič/Caucig gained the highest positions and recognitions: he was professor at Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts, and from 1820 until his death in 1828 he was its director. In 1808 he was appointed head and supervisor of the painting department of the Viennese porcelain factory. He became honorary member of the academy in Venice (1795) and of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome (1823). He was a good acquaintance of the sculptor Antonio Canova and a friend of the first director of the academy in Prague, Josef Bergler.

It rarely happens that an exhibition presents so clearly the steps in the creation of old works of art, from the idea, through an overall design and study drawings to the realization in oil medium, that is to say from a drawing to an oil painting. Displayed are 12 paintings and 13 drawings (one in reproduction). The catalogue is printed in two versions, Slovene and English. All of the exhibited works are reproduced in colour. In the smaller  exhibition room information is available on relevant issues concerning the exhibition including a short history of acquisitions of Caucig's works for the National Gallery, from 1923 until the present day. The texts are accompanied by small-scale reproductions of all works whether purchased or donated to the Gallery. Another information briefly explains the history of Palais Auersperg in Vienna, for which Caucig painted these twelve works. Mozart as a child played in this palace once, and in 1786 he performed there his opera Idomeneo in a concert form, and other compositions. Besides Mozart, also other musicians performed in Palais Auersperg, such as Christoph Willibald Gluck, Joseph Haydn, etc. One of the owners of the estate and the palace prior to the Auerspergs was Girolamo prince Capace marquis di Rofrano. His figure and his name was employed more than two hundred years later by Hugo von Hoffmannsthal for the character of Octavian, the Rosenkavalier, who also features in Richard Strauss' opera of the same title. The third information concerns the portrait of Caucig that was drawn in 1805 by the painter Jakob Merz and engraved by Johann Jakob Lorenz Billwiller. Brief biographies of the two artists are presented as well as the information on how the print was acquired for the National Gallery. Separately a list of Caucig's biographical data is presented which provides short information about the artist's life and work.

Author of the exhibition, catalogue and information texts; documentary materials
Ksenija Rozman

Heads of the project
Barbara Jaki, Marja Lorenčak, Alenka Simončič and Ksenija Rozman

Curator of the exhibition
Marja Lorenčak

Kemal Selmanović, Ljubljana (paintings)
Hilde Seidl, Vienna (11 drawings)

Exhibition designed by
Miljenko Licul

Catalogue and promotional leaflets designed by
Miljenko Licul and Julija Zornik Strle

Video: From a Drawing to an Oil Panting
Luka Hribar

Exhibition was made possible by
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia

Sponsored by

25 October 2007–2 March 2008
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia