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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 9 May 2024 – 5 Jun. 2024

Revelations: Vision of Summer

Giulio Carpioni, Allegory of Summer

Spring ends in June and is succeeded by warm summer, which, to modern people, conjures thoughts of a well-deserved break and leisure outdoor activities.

The painting of the three nude boys (putti), placed in a pyramid shape in a sunny landscape, represents summer. The rake, sickle and scythe suggest the necessary tasks of the season – mowing and harvesting – have been completed, and the grown wheat is carefully bundled into sheaves.

The painting is attributed to the Venetian painter Giulio Carpioni (1613–1675), whose teacher was Titian's successor Alessandro Varotari (1588–1649), called Padovanino. His visit to Bergamo brought him under the influence of Lombard painting; later, he looked up to the Caravaggisti, too. His oeuvre is varied: painted altarpieces, frescoes and, in his later years, also etchings. He is best known for his allegorical scenes, mythological images and bacchanalia.

Natural cycles are very common motif in fine arts. The four seasons, together with the twelve months, the four elements and the five senses, were part of the compulsory furnishings of esteemed homes. Like other intangible ideas and phenomena, the seasons can be represented by human figures (personifications). We thus often encounter Summer as the harvest goddess Ceres or coquettish nude women surrounded by flowers. Among the most special representations are the fantastical male heads by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527–1593), which are made up of crops typical of the season.

In other depictions, we can observe traditional seasonal tasks. The richly illustrated book of hours Belles Heures of Duc de Berry shows mowing, raking and putting up haystacks in June, wheat harvesting and sheep shearing in July, and bundling, bathing in the river and falcon hunting in August. The same tasks (harvesting and shearing sheep) also appear in other artists' depictions, e.g. Jacopo Bassano’s and Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s. Within Baroque playfulness, and even later, these scenes are often reduced to depictions of joyful putti with attributes illustrative of the work and produce of the season, as in Carpioni's painting.

The theme has remained relevant, and thus present, in all art periods and has always reflected the lively summer mood, whether in the Rococo pastorals of François Boucher (1703–1770), the green meadow and carefree braiding of flowers in Summer by Ivana Kobilca (1861–1926), or in the vividly coloured silkscreens by Metka Krašovec (1941–2018).

Carpioni's painting was once part of a private collection of Eduard Ritter von Strahl, who found various ways to grow his collection. The core presented the original furnishings of the Stara Loka Mansion, which had been in the family from the matrilineal side since 1755, and which Edvard and his sister had inherited in 1833. From the 1860s onwards, a number of individuals took part in the collecting, from art dealers, Edvard’s son Karl, to the housekeeper Johana Struppi, who acquired works from local painters or brought them in from parish churches, parsonages and old houses.

Edvard Strahl bought the Carpioni painting together with its pair Autumn from the art dealer Alessandro Volpi around 1865. According to the extant description, it is supposed to show a satyr and two putti, but its present location is not known.

After Edvard's death, the collection passed to his son Karl (1850–1929), and after his death, the collection was auctioned off in 1930, dispersing it across institutions and countries. Karl’s testament ensured that the National Museum, the National Gallery and the Ethnographic Museum all could pre-select pieces they needed to complete own collections and purchase them on favourable terms. Today, the works from Strahl's collection form one of the core holdings of the National Gallery and feature prominently in its Permanent Collection.

Katra Meke

9 May – 5 June 2024
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana