Menu Shopping cart
Your basket is empty.
Support us


Exhibitions and Projects
Online exhibition | From 5 Nov 2021 onward

Portraits of Children

from the Permanent Collection of the National Gallery of Slovenia

The National Gallery of Slovenia has held a number of exhibitions on the theme of childhood over the years. The first, entitled The Child in Painting and Sculpture, took place at the Jakopič Pavilion in 1938. The exhibition The Child and the Family in Slovene Art in 1975 was followed four years later by Images of Children in the Past. In 2006 children’s portraits were presented in the context of images of families at the exhibition Painted Families.

Depictions of children in various poses in the National Gallery’s collection are most frequent from the late eighteenth century onwards, although individual portraits of children can already be found in the Dutch painting of the seventeenth century, a period in which children ceased to appear in paintings merely as symbols and instead gained their own individual features and character. Children have been depicted in paintings and sculptures since antiquity and figures of children appear in everything from medieval scenes of mother and child to depictions in contemporary art. In religious paintings, genre painting and mythological scenes, children are personified as putti, angels, mythological figures, and so on, until eventually they assume the personal characteristics of individuals. The literature of art in different periods contains images of children as innocent victims, upon taking their first steps, delighting adults with their playfulness, as miniature adults themselves, or as still helpless yet promising members of the human community.

In the seventeenth century children were usually portrayed in the company of adults, in family portraits. In most cases they appear before the viewer as members of a family group, alongside their parents, in a demure, shy or mistrustful attitude. In the eighteenth century we encounter them in the portraits of the upper classes, who could afford to commission such works, as miniature versions of adult ladies and gentlemen. Such portraits tell us above all about the status of the family. Children are not depicted playing – merely with the objects of play. Their expressions are reserved and they look shyly towards the viewer. From the sociological point of view, the late eighteenth century saw a change in attitudes towards children and the importance of early childhood in upbringing. It became more common for women of the middle and upper classes to nurse their children themselves. Attitudes towards children over time have been a subject of study in numerous fields, including history, anthropology, ethnology, history of art, sociology, psychology and even law. Artistic depictions are an incredibly precious document of an age, since they show children of different classes in different periods, presenting them with all their differences of social circumstance and environment. 

The first half of the nineteenth century saw a rapid growth in artistic depictions of a carefree childhood. With the growing role of the middle classes, family life became an increasingly important factor in society after the French Revolution. In this period the middle classes began to commission artists to paint not only their own portraits but those of their progeny as well. Children with typical hairstyles – girls with their hair in ringlets or braids and tied up in a bow or hanging loose over their shoulders – and dressed either in children’s clothes or in outfits that imitated the contemporary fashions of serious adult attire are shown reading, with favourite pets, asleep or at play. The toys included in the portraits tell us more about the affluence of the family to which the subjects belonged than about their owners’ love of play, since only rich middle-class families could afford luxuries for their children, which in those days included toys. Children are depicted sitting or standing and their portraits can be face only, head and shoulders, half-length, three-quarter-length or full-length. Boys, as the heirs of the head of the family, are dressed in hunting attire, with symbols of power, while girls are pictured in graceful and agreeable poses. The miniature versions of adult wardrobes are replaced by clothes designed for play, and children are portrayed in relaxed attitudes and with inquisitive gazes, surrounded by toys, children’s books, children’s furniture or other attributes and, in the case of exterior settings, by landscape views and floral symbolism. As the late nineteenth century became the twentieth, an everyday attitude towards the children portrayed began to establish itself, while artists also experimented with different formal approaches. 

Throughout the history of fine art portraits, playful, graceful, direct, cheerful, sweet, attractive, smiling and also serious depictions of children have told viewers stories about their social extraction, their connection with the world of adults, captured moments, loneliness, security, self-assurance, fear and happiness.

The selection of portraits of children from the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Slovenia invites us to look at their expressions, interpret the language of their eyes and gestures, and feel the emotions they transmit to us from decades or centuries in the past, as we walk among the descendants of aristocrats, famous princesses, scions of eminent families, and also anonymous little girls and boys.

The painting shows Elisabeth (“Isabella”) Mniszech (1787–1830), the daughter of a niece of King Stanisław II August Poniatowski of Poland, himself a remarkably intelligent and educated man who had visited most of the capitals of Europe. Isabella sat for Vigée Le Brun during the latter’s sojourn in St Petersburg and is also mentioned in the painter’s memoirs. Vigée Le Brun enjoyed the esteem of King Stanisław August, his sister Countess Louise Zamoyska and her daughter Countess Urszula Mniszech.

The young lady, shown in a head and shoulders oval portrait, is dressed in light-coloured clothes with a half-smile on her pretty face, which is framed by the curls of her hair. Her body is turned to the right, towards the viewer, and she looks out of the painting with a good-humoured and self-assured gaze as she clutches her pet dog, a white Italian spitz or volpino. It seems likely that the girl herself chose her loyal four-legged friend to share her portrait with her. The presence of the dog in the picture makes the composition richer and the overall image even more charming.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun - Elisabeth Isabella Mniszech, 1797

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun
Elisabeth Isabella Mniszech, 1797
oil on canvas, 48.5 x 44.2 cm
signed and dated bottom left: Petersbourg / Vigée / Le Brun / 1797
Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana

This childhood portrait of Julija Primic (1816–1864) and her two years older brother Janez is the work of the eminent painter Matevž Langus. Julija Primic grew up to be one of the richest and most beautiful heiresses in Ljubljana. She also attracted the attention of France Prešeren, who dedicated one of his most famous poems, Sonetni venec (A wreath of sonnets, 1834), to her by means of the acrostic PRIMICOVI JULJI (“To Julija Primic”) in the master sonnet of the sequence.

The seated brother and sister are shown in three-quarter view against a grey-green background, Julija in a dark green armchair on the left and Janez on a wooden chair on the right. This was how their parents carefully arranged them and placed them before the society painter Langus. A pink band adorns Julija’s fair hair and a bow of the same colour can be seen on the sleeve of her white dress. She is holding a hen, which her brother is feeding. Toys and domestic animals are typical attributes in Langus’s portraits of children. Janez is dressed in a dark outfit with a contrasting white collar. The faces of the two subjects, with their similar features and blue eyes, convey an impression of reserve, embarrassment and shyness. 

Matevž Langus - Julija Primic with Her Brother Janez, c. 1823

Matevž Langus
Julija Primic with Her Brother Janez, c. 1823
oil on canvas, 57.5 x 74 cm
NG S 1366

Jožef Tominc, who was one of the most sought after portrait painters among wealthy members of the middle class, painted Dr Dimitrije Frušić (1790–1838), a physician, journalist and prominent member of the Serbian community of Trieste, together with his young family.

The physician is seated comfortably on a canapé in front of a blue curtain and the lighter diagonal of the background, a book of Hippocrates in his hand. Next to him, his wife Jovanka and their three children are shown around a polished oval table. His wife is dressed in a light brown gown and wearing fine family jewellery. The little girl by her side, her hand placed on her mother’s shoulder, wears a white dress, while the two boys are in dark jackets with white collars. One of the boys kneels next to his mother behind the table, while the other is shown in front of the table and leaning against it. The older boy, Čedomil, who is allotted a place on the right, in front of the table and directly below his father, as befits a firstborn son, died the year the picture was painted. Dr Frušić himself died three years later.

All three children are painted convincingly, with faces that eloquently express aspects of their character: satisfaction, pride, mischievousness and good nature. All these characteristics can also be seen in the figures of the parents, and the family of Dr Frušić thus presents itself to us as a harmonious and integrated family unit. 

Jožef Tominc - The Family of Dr Frušić (before 1835)

Jožef Tominc
The Family of Dr Frušić (before 1835)
oil on canvas, 130 x 170 cm
NG S 463

The frescoist and Biedermeier portrait painter of Ljubljana’s middle class Matevž Langus painted Karl Hummel’s homonymous young son in the year of the Springtime of Nations. The Hummel family lived in Ljubljana but also owned property in Graz and Trieste. The Hummels had three children: Karl, Irene and Franz. The firstborn, Karl, inherited his father’s gift for music, spent his life in Graz and never married.

Langus painted the young Karl in front of a view of Ljubljana beneath a cloudy sky. The boy is shown full length astride a wooden hobby horse, symbolic flowers at his feet. The hobby horse, which Karl pretends to urge to a gallop with the whip in his right hand, functions as a status symbol. The subject of the portrait is dressed in white trousers and a pink tunic, his body turned casually towards the viewer. His doll-like face simultaneously expresses reserve and mischievousness. The portrait of Karl Hummel Jr is one of the most representative examples of a solo portrait of a child from this period.

Matevž Langus - Karl Hummel Jr, 1848

Matevž Langus
Karl Hummel Jr, 1848
oil on canvas, 109 x 73 cm
signed and dated bottom right: Langus pinx 1848.
NG S 3067

Upon graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Mihael Stroj initially settled in Zagreb, where he made his name as a painter of portraits of members of the city’s wealthy middle classes. In 1842 he left Zagreb for Ljubljana, where he began to receive commissions for portraits from notable citizens of the Carniolan capital. The commission to paint a childhood portrait of Valentin Krisper came shortly after his arrival in Ljubljana.

Valentin Krisper (1835–1912) was the son of the Ljubljana merchant Anton Krisper (1805–1865) and a future factory owner. Society portrait painter Mihael Stroj painted a head and shoulders portrait of the nine-year-old Valentin against a neutral background. He is dressed in a white shirt, tan waistcoat and blue topcoat with two rows of buttons. His pale face – red cheeks, lips pressed together – is painted in a soft manner and expresses the delicate nature but also the quiet self-assurance of the middle of Anton Krisper’s three sons. 

Mihael Stroj - Valentin Krisper, (c. 1844)

Mihael Stroj
Valentin Krisper, c. 1844
oil on canvas, 63.5 x 50 cm
NG S 375

Ivana Kobilca painted Girl in a Red Waistcoat while attending the private school of painting for women run by Alois Erdtelt (1851–1911) in Munich. Above all, Erdtelt imparted to his students the techniques of studio-based female portraiture. Kobilca painted several portraits of children in the 1880s, including Girl (1882–1889), Study of a Red-Haired Girl(1882–1889) and Bust of a Boy in a Red Hat (1888–1889). Her images of children were commercially successful, so she devoted particular attention to studies of childhood portraits and became unrivalled as a painter of children.

This half-length portrait shows a little girl seated in three-quarter profile against a neutral background, a serious expression on her face and her gaze fixed in front of her. Her hair is tied up and she is dressed in a white blouse and a sleeveless red garment. The study features brownish colouring, relaxed brushwork and an “unfinished” character that seems to involve the viewer in the creation of the image.

Ivana Kobilca - Girl in a Red Waistcoat, 1886

Ivana Kobilca
Girl in a Red Waistcoat, 1886
oil on canvas, 54.5 x 45.5 cm
signed and dated on back: Iv. Kobilca / 1886
NG S 590

At the time of painting Boy Wearing a Fur Cap, Ferdo Vesel spent the first half of the year in Slovenia before returning in the autumn to Munich, where he had completed his examinations at the Academy of Fine Arts but still had the use of a studio. The portrait dates from the period in which Vesel was transitioning from painting heads to full-length figures. This full-length portrait of a seated barefoot boy, characterised by careful modelling and muted tones, comes from his Munich studio.

The boy is seated in a relaxed attitude on a neo-Renaissance chair, his right leg lifted over a pot or jug placed on the chair’s right-hand edge (on the left of the painting). On his head he wears an adult’s fur cap. He is dressed in a white shirt and broad grey-blue trousers, which he has rolled up past his knees. In his right hand he holds a plum. His face, which has a laughing, playful and joyful expression, is turned towards the viewer. The artist has painted the boy in a relaxed, carefree and playful pose that expresses his childishness and at the same time gives the painting greater depth.

Ferdo Vesel - Boy Wearing a Fur Cap, 1889

Ferdo Vesel
Boy Wearing a Fur Cap, 1889
oil on canvas, 51.8 x 44.3 cm
NG S 520

Ivana Kobilca painted what is today the most popular painting in the National Gallery of Slovenia over the course of two summers at her mother’s home in Podbrezje in north-western Slovenia. Having garnered great success with it, she later presented it to the National Gallery. The creation of the work coincided with her departure from Munich and her plans to move to Paris. Influenced by Munich’s modernism and French en plein air painting, she painted the large-format work in light colours with accentuated lighting effects. The work presents us with a relaxed summer scene of sunlit greenery and a peaceful holiday atmosphere. Kobilca depicted her younger sister Fani making a floral wreath with the help of her young cousins, Katrica and Janezek Blek. In later years the artist would remember: “The children were crowding all around me and criticising me as I worked: That’s not right! You’ll see, she’ll fix it!”

Both the Blek children in the foreground and the two young lads by the fence in the background are depicted in full figure in a playful and sociable mood. Janezek Blek, dressed in brown trousers, a shirt and a sleeveless pullover, is seated on the ground with his back to the viewer, proffering a flower to Fani. His older sister stands next to Fani in a blue dress, contentedly sorting flowers. Two smiling young lads with hats on their heads are bringing flowers to the group from the background of the scene. The figures depicted in the painting also represent the social contrast between the urbane young lady on the one hand and the village urchins on the other.

Ivana Kobilca - Summer, 1889–1890

Ivana Kobilca
Summer, 1889–1890
oil on canvas, 180 x 141.5 cm
bottom right: I. Kobilca
NG S 165

In 1891 Ferdo Vesel’s painting Blind Man’s Buff was included in an exhibition of works submitted by students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich for a Christmas competition on the theme of winter. Using a lighter application of monochrome tones, the artist has created a genre scene depicting a game of blind man’s buff being played in an interior. Themes of childhood and interiors were popular subjects among students of the Munich Academy under Ludwig von Löfftz. The winter theme is suggested by the pale wintry light shining through the curtained window in the background and the fact that the children are playing indoors in the warmth. 

The nursemaid seated at the table with a coffee cup in her right hand is surrounded by seven merry children depicted in frozen attitudes as they play a game of blind man’s buff. The full-length figures create a circular composition. The expressions and movements of each of the children offer us a psychological insight into their characters. A barefoot girl lies on the table, her legs crossed at the ankle, observing the game from a position of safety. The boy seated next to her with a hat on his head and his trouser leg rolled up over his knee is reminiscent of the Boy Wearing the Fur Cap. Next to him stands a boy with one shoe off and one shoe on. The girl on his right is leaning backwards and turned towards the viewer. On the right-hand side of the composition we have the central figure of the children’s game: a boy with a red blindfold covering his eyes. With arms stretched out on either side, he seeks his playmates. Behind his back a girl leans against the wall. To her left another little boy is hiding under a table containing sundry utensils.

Ferdo vesel - Blind Man’s Buff, 1891

Ferdo Vesel
Blind Man’s Buff, 1891
oil on canvas, 78.4 x 94.5 cm
NG S 2124

Ivana Kobilca painted her portrait of a boy in a sailor suit during her melancholic blue period, a time of disappointment and mourning for her lost love in Paris. After seven years studying in Munich, she was now a proficient and assured portrait painter.

The entire painting of the boy in the sailor suit is pervaded with sadness and melancholy. This is partly the result of the artist’s chosen palette of darker, subdued colours. Against a neutral background, the boy sits on a chair that is too big for him, with a wooden armrest, his face turned directly towards the viewer. He is dressed in a dark outfit with a sailor collar. His hands are folded in his lap. The painting does not include the lower part of his legs. The boy’s serious, pale face is framed by long curly hair. His appearance is characterised by melancholy in his attitude, his face and, above all, his highly expressive eyes.

Ivana Kobilca - Boy in a Sailor Suit, 1891−1892

Ivana Kobilca
Boy in a Sailor Suit, 1891−1892
oil on canvas, 90 x 67 cm
NG S 1871

Ivana Kobilca painted her Parisian Woman Selling Vegetableswhen she was living in Paris, during her cold blue melancholic phase. She captured the poor peasant girl on canvas in Barbizon, to where she had retreated from Paris along with her artist friends. The work represents one of the pinnacles of her oeuvre in terms of quality.

Standing out against the dark colour of the girl’s dress, the vegetables on the stall in front of her and the barely distinguishable face of the concealed figure of a small boy on the left of the painting, are the girl’s lighter coloured hands, which appear unnaturally large – as though to emphasise that this is a person who earns a crust by the sweat of her brow, and her face, wrapped in a white headscarf. This young girl does not spend her time at play but instead earns her daily bread in the world of adults. Her face is melancholic and offers a clear glimpse of her state of mind. 

Ivana Kobilca - Parisian Woman Selling Vegetables, c. 1892

Ivana Kobilca
Parisian Woman Selling Vegetables, c. 1892
oil on canvas, 82 x 60 cm
signed top left: I. Kobilca
NG S 164

Alojzij Repič created his sculptural group Blind Beggar with a Boy in 1895 while studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He exhibited the work, then entitled The Blind Man at the First Slovene Art Exhibition in 1900, and then again at the Jubilee Art Exhibition held at the Jakopič Pavilion in 1940 to mark the fortieth anniversary of the earlier event.

With this example of academic realism, the sculptor touched on social themes. The old man – a seated blind and barefoot beggar with a hat in his right hand – rests his left hand on the left shoulder of a half-naked boy who is also begging for money with his left hand out. The boy’s raised left hand emerges from the Renaissance-style triangular composition and in this way accentuates the meaning and theme of the sculpture. The boy’s head is slightly raised, his eyes wide open and his lips parted; the expression on his face and his entire figure express the little boy’s active efforts and desire to obtain alms.

Alojzij Repič - Blind Beggar with a Boy, 1895

Alojzij Repič
Blind Beggar with a Boy, 1895
bronze, 83 x 52 x 57 cm
signed and dated bottom right: A. Repič 95
NG P 300

Of the four leading Slovene Impressionists, it was Matija Jama who dedicated himself most to painting children.

He painted this young family – Rozi Bleiweis and her two children – in a natural setting amid greenery, a stand of silver birch trees in the background. He almost certainly used a photograph to help him while working. The contentedly smiling mother in a pale pink dress holds a naked infant on her lap. Her older child stands on her left, right hand bashfully clasping the forefinger of the left. This relaxed bourgeois portrait from the turn of the century is deliberately set in the countryside, seen as a place of recreation, exercise and leisure. Only the coiffed hair and expensive clothes of the subjects tells us anything about their status.

Matija jama - Rozi Bleiweis with Her Children, 1901

Matija Jama
Rozi Bleiweis with Her Children, 1901
oil on canvas, 121 x 84.5 cm
signed and dated bottom right: M: JAMA / 01
NG S 3297

Ivan Zajec created his realistic half-length portrait of a girl in around 1906. Girls were among the sculptor’s preferred subjects and both his sculptural oeuvre and his drawings contain many examples of childhood themes. Zajec also sketched figures of girls in various poses in his sketchbooks, adding to them in phases. He portrayed girls with typical hairstyles, dressed in children’s clothes, in various situations: seated reading, standing and absorbed in play.

The realistic half-length plaster shows a girl in a short-sleeved dress with her arms crossed and her braided hair carefully arranged into coils over the ears. Her face and hands are smoothly worked and contrast with the coarser lower part of the sculpture. The girl’s pose expresses self-confidence and there is a hint of vanity in her face.

Ivan Zajec - Girl, (ok. 1906)

Ivan Zajec
Girl, c. 1906
plaster, 72 x 40 x 29.5 cm
signed on right side: IVAN Zajec
NG P 510

Ivan Zajec’s small clay sculpture Girl with a Kitten joins his plaster A Girland a series of drawings of girls in his sketchbook in the gallery’s collection. Girls were clearly a subject the sculptor enjoyed portraying. Ivan Zajec’s oeuvre includes numerous small figurative works whose content marks them as genre sculptures. His favourite materials for these sculptures were plaster and fired clay. In the case of the terracotta sculpture Girl with a Kitten, the sculptor signed himself Jean Zajec, from which we may conclude that the work dates from the period in which Zajec was living in Paris.

A long-haired girl in a summer dress sits on a bench, her attention directed towards a kitten that is rubbing its head against her bare legs. The girl is leaning forward with her whole body, entirely focused on the animal, a delighted expression on her face. The overall composition emanates tenderness and a relaxed, affectionate and playful mood.

Ivan Zajec - Girl with a Kitten, c. 1906

Ivan Zajec
Girl with a Kitten, c. 1906
clay, 42 x 40 x 28 cm
signed on the back: JEAN ZAJEC
NG P 976

Franc Berneker enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1897 and, after completing a specialisation in sculpture in 1905, remained there until 1915. In the first decade of the twentieth century, while living in Vienna, he completed a series of realistic sculptural portraits of figures from the cultural sphere and society, including patrons, supporters, friends and their children. From his student years onwards, he had enjoyed the support of the journalist, patron and educator Pavel Turner (1842–1924) and, in particular, Fran Vidic (1872–1944). The latter was a literary historian, translator and patron of the arts, who also held various political positions. He was the co-founder of a Slovene literary club in Vienna and the patron of numerous Slovene artists, among them Ivan Cankar, Ivan Grohar, Fran Tratnik, Ivan Žabota, Ivan Vavpotič and Berneker.

The most intimate of all the surviving portraits of the Vidic family is that of Ivan Vidic’s daughter Zdenka with her friend Mira Ban. Zdenka Vidic was born on 9 May 1902 and was thus five years old when she sat for Berneker. She died at the age of just nineteen, following a long illness. The double portrait of the two girls is intimately imagined and lyrically sensitive. The girls’ faces are softened by their childish features, while their grace is emphasised by their hairstyles. The lower part of the work is sculpted in a more textured fashion, in contrast to the smooth treatment of the facial areas. The portrait reflects the soft, delicate and dreamy characteristics of the Vienna Secession, while the material – white marble – further heightens the poetic effect through its translucence.

Franc Berneker - Zdenka Vidic and Mira Ban, c. 1907

Franc Berneker
Zdenka Vidic and Mira Ban, c. 1907
marble, 33 x 35 x 17 cm
signed on the right: F. Berneker
NG P 650

Franc Berneker enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1897 and, after completing a specialisation in sculpture in 1905, remained there until 1915. In the first decade of the twentieth century he created a series of portraits that followed Rodin’s modernist conception of sculpture. He was able to infuse his realistic depictions with a unique tenderness, dreaminess and mildness and expressed his artistic power and skill through the sculptural treatment of varied surfaces.

In the case of this head and shoulder sculpture, the coarser, richly textured treatment of the girl’s dress contrasts with the smooth treatment of her face. The dress ends in a tall collar below her chin. The girl’s hair is tied back, with the result that her delicate facial features are clearly visible to the viewer. Her expression is poetic and wistful. The work is one of the most picturesque portraits in Berneker’s oeuvre.

Franc Berneker - Girl, c. 1910

Franc Berneker
Girl, c. 1910
bronze, 56.8 x 46.8 x 31.2 cm
signed bottom left: F. Berneker
NG P 718

Henrika Šantel belongs to the tradition of en plein air realistic painting as practised in Munich. Her oeuvre includes numerous portraits, which she painted in the style of academic realism. The restraint that was evident in her earlier paintings was gradually replaced by a more decisive use of colour and light contrasts. 

Vivid colours and a light that seems to radiate from the girl’s white dress are also features of this full-length seated portrait of a red-haired girl. The girl is seated on a green-painted high wooden stool. The vertical stripes on the wallpaper in the background are also green. She is wearing black shoes and a white dress. Her vividly coloured hair stands out from the background, as do her bright red socks and the red scarf or shawl around her waist. The relaxed character of the scene is emphasised by her somewhat untidy hair, the open front of her dress, the drapery in her lap and socks that have slid down to her ankles. Through her pose and facial expression, the girl eloquently conveys a sense of weariness or fatigue.

Henrika Šantel - Rdečelasa deklica, pred 1912

Henrika Šantel
Red-Haired Girl, before 1912
oil on canvas, 100 x 70 cm
NG S 1904

Lojze Dolinar is known for his realistic monumental works of both free-standing and architectural sculpture. His oeuvre does, however, also include a series of smaller intimate sculptures, of which Boy with a Bee is one. The National Gallery purchased the work from the artist in 1920, its first year of operation. The small intimate sculpture of patinated plaster was included in the 15th Art Exhibition at the Jakopič Pavilion in Ljubljana in 1918, under the title In Fear.

This genre sculpture presents the charming neo-baroque figure of a chubby little boy who is afraid of being stung by a bee and, in an attempt to escape the insect, is leaning back with his whole body and trying to protect his face with his right arm, on which the bee has just landed. 

Lojze Dolinar - Boy with a Bee, 1913−1914

Lojze Dolinar
Boy with a Bee, 1913−1914
plaster, 37 x 15 x 16.5 cm
NG P 373a

Ferdo Vesel was a painter of portraits, nudes, landscapes, genre scenes and still lifes. He painted this picture of a naked little boy sitting by the water in natural surroundings in the early 1920s. The light in the picture falls from the right and illuminates the left side of the boy’s body. His body, painted with smooth brushstrokes, contrasts with the picturesquely painted vegetation that surrounds him.

The fair-haired boy is sitting with his overlarge feet together, his elbows resting on his knees and his chin propped in his left hand. His expression is calm and pensive, a mood also hinted at by a pose that is somewhat reminiscent of Rodin’s The Thinker.

Ferdo Vesel - Boy in Greenery, before 1922

Ferdo Vesel
Boy in Greenery, before 1922
oil on canvas, 87 x 63 cm
NG S 530

Ivan Vavpotič was a portrait painter of Ljubljana’s middle classes, who commissioned him to paint their portraits and those of their children, which he did in the realistic style then popular. The work alternatively titled Boy in a Gardenor Boy with a Hoop is a portrait of Borut Žerjav. The painting is compositionally well balanced and the light colours and sunny summer light contribute to its gentle and serene mood. 

The fair-haired little boy stands with a hoop in his hands surrounded by toys in a carefully tended garden. He is wearing white ankle boots and is dressed festively in a white smock trimmed in red. The hoop had been a popular children’s toy since antiquity and depictions of a boy or youth with a hoop were very common even on the vase paintings of the fifth century BC. Vavpotič’s boy with a hoop aims to be a representation of a happy and carefree childhood.

Boy with a Hoop (Borut Žerjav), 1922

Ivan Vavpotič
Boy with a Hoop (Borut Žerjav), 1922
oil on canvas, 100 x 83.8 cm
signed bottom right: I. Vavpotič
NG S 491

Cipriano Efisio Oppo, an Italian painter who trained in Rome, was initially an enthusiast of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism but later became a Naturalist in the style of the nineteenth century.

Here he has painted his daughter Eugenia in a pale pink dress, seated on a red-backed chair and holding a small pink flower. The composition alludes to French Impressionist works, although the depiction of the girl’s face recalls Italian Renaissance portraits. The girl’s serious expression suggests mild dissatisfaction, condescension and vanity.

Cipriano Efisio Oppo - Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter Eugenia, 1931

Cipriano Efisio Oppo
Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter Eugenia, 1931
oil on wood panel, 66.5 x 51 cm
signed and dated top right: Oppo 31
NG S 1996

Gabrijel Stupica’s daughter Marija Lucija (1950–2002) quickly became his favourite subject and an inexhaustible source of inspiration to him.

Lucija in an Old-Fashioned Dress is one of the earliest depictions of the artist’s daughter, who was three years old at the time. The many images of her are linked via a strong tradition to the symbolic and objective worlds. The dark-haired, dark-eyed little girl is shown here full length against a neutral background, dressed in a light-coloured antique dress. She stands before us in a self-confident and dignified attitude that reminds us of Velázquez’s portraits of Spanish princesses from the seventeenth century. 

Gabrijel Stupica - Lucija in an Old-Fashioned Dress, 1953

Gabrijel Stupica
Lucija in an Old-Fashioned Dress, 1953
oil on canvas, 104.5 x 97.8 cm
Marlenka Stupica, Ljubljana


National Gallery of Slovenia, represented by
Barbara Jaki

Author of the exhibition
Mateja Breščak

Bojan Salaj, Janko Dermastja (© Narodna galerija)

Language editing
Zala Mikeln

Hugh Brown, Amidas d. o. o.

Web page
Luka Hribar

Bibliography review
Nataša Ciber

Online exhibition | From 5 November 2021 onward
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana