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Exhibitions and Projects
Exhibition | 5 May – 1 Jun. 2022

Revelations: Marija Auersperg Attems

Vases on the Window (1840–1850)

Marija Rozalija Attems married Anton Alexander Auersperg, known as Anastasius Grün, in 1839 in her native Graz. We know little about her life, but the main events can be reconstructed after the life of her husband. The Auerspergs were artistically gifted, including Marija's husband, who was a poet. Devotion to the arts within the wider family was an important advantage for Marija, since her efforts to develop own artistic talent were supported not only by her husband, but also by other members of the large aristocratic family. During the winter months, the couple lived mainly in Graz and Vienna, and thus were at the very centre of artistic happenings.

In the first half of the 19th century, the Vienna school of floral still lifes was a phenomenon in Europe of the time and the embodiment of the Biedermeier style. Biedermeier floral painting was created out of a love of nature that was prevalent across the whole of society, including the imperial family, and this, of course, encompassed both domestic and exotic flowers. It was a time of flourishing botanical and private gardens of wealthy plant lovers, and greenhouses for cultivating fashionable exotic flowers. Members of the imperial family, aristocracy and bourgeoisie became devoted amateur botanists. On the outskirts of Vienna, the refuge of countless private gardens was coveted and all this influenced the general mood, the fashion that spread to many areas of life. The Auersperg couple also followed the general trends and planted orchards, tree-lined avenues and ornamental gardens on their Dornava estate and along the Šrajbarski turn in Leskovec near Krško. For the trained painter, her own flower garden was also a source for the study of still lifes, which is reflected in the accurately painted plant species.

Women did not have access to academic education until the end of the 19th century. Art courses were part of the general education of middle and upper class girls, but all women with real ambitions had to rely on private schooling. The still lifes of Marija Auersperg Attems show the influences of various leading painters of the Vienna school of Biedermeier floral still lifes, which revived the golden age of Dutch painting and influential masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. Johann Baptist Drechsler (1756−1811), a remarkable painter and the founder of the School of Floral Painting, was inspired by the Old Masters, most notably by Jan van Huysum (1682−1749) and Rachel Ruysch (1664−1750). Like her artistic colleagues, Marija Auersperg Attems copied after older masters as well as her contemporaries, including Franz Xaver Petter (1791–1866), but she also knew how to freely interpret their work and introduce her own ideas and motifs. 

In the still life "Vases on the Window", three bouquets are placed on a shelf in front of the landscape with a streamr, a meadow, a village and hills in the background. The painting may have been created during the painter's stay on Šrajbarski turn, where she found motifs for her painting in the surrounding nature, especially in her own flower garden and the nearby forest. Most of the accurately depicted flowers do not bloom at the same time, so the painter certainly helped herself with patterns, especially with the painted tulip. The belly vase made of glass, which was a very widespread and fashionable element of floral still lifes, is also inspired by Drechsler. 

Maria Auersperg Attems did not sell her paintings, but kept them for herself or gifted them to relatives and friendly noble families. Her still lifes are kept at the National Gallery of Slovenia, the National Museum of Slovenia, The Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Landesgalerie in Graz and in private collections.

Jassmina Marijan

Presented: 5 May, 6.00 pm

5 May–1 June 2022
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana