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Permanent Collection

1600–1700

A Vase with Flowers
(1st qr. 17th cent.), oil, canvas, 84,4 x 63,5 cm

NG S 971, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
In a big metal vase there is a careful but not symmetrical arrangement of flowers: roses, lilies of various kinds, opulus, bluebells, tulips, etc. Some flowers are lying on the surface on which the vase stands, around the flowers in the vase we see butterflies, dragonflies and a spider letting itself down on a thread. The vase is decorated with a rich relief: the handles are in the shape of snakes, on the front side is a depiction of a mythological scene, in which Venus and Cupid can be recognised; in front of Venus there is another kneeling figure holding a dish. It is not impossible that this is the scene which we know from Apuleus’ Metamorphoses (VI, 16), when Psyche brings Venus water. Stylistically we must connect this painting with the presumed Master of the Vase with Grotesques (Maestro del vaso a grottesche, cf. A. Veca: Parádeisos, catalogue to the exhibition in the Galleria Lorenzelli, Bergamo 1982, p. 211, Fig. XIX–XXII). All the paintings of this master show large bouquets of flowers (very similar to the bouquet on our painting both as regards the arrangement and the choice of flowers) in metal vases which have unusual handles and are decorated with secular or religious scenes, or with landscapes. These paintings reveal the influence of the Flemish floral still life at the turn from the 16th to the 17th century, and here the imperial crown (Fritillaria imperialis) is particularly characteristic; we often find this flower on Flemish paintings, and on our canvas it is at the very top of the composition. Although there have been attempts to connect some pictures from the above mentioned group with Giacomo Recco, Veca is of the opinion that we must seek the artist in Central or Northern Italy. The latter area would appear to be more probable; we know a number of paintings with an analogous composition and with vases of flowers related to this unquestionably Lombard work. Of particular importance in this connection is a large canvas with the figures of Martha and Mary on either side of a vase with flowers; it was on sale on 20 February 1981 at an auction at Christie’s in London (No. 97). Both figures are derived from Bernardino Luini.

On the right side of the pedestal of the vase on our painting, is the inscription BOS 880, for which no satisfactory explanation has yet been found; it was probably added later, perhaps as an inventory mark.

Restored: 1980, Štefan Hauko.
Provenance: Strmol Castle (?); Franc Pustavrh, parish priest in Velesovo; bought from Pustavrh by Edvard Strahl of Stara Loka in 1866; purchased by the Narodna galerija 1930, old Inv. No. 453 (inscription on the vase was taken to be the signature: Bos. 18(6?) 80).
Exhibitions: 1930, Ljubljana, no catalogue; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 7; 1985, Belgrade, No. 5; 1989, Ljubljana, No. 1.
Lit.: Polec 1930b, p. 177, Cat. No. 410 (Jacob von dem Bosch, born in Amsterdam 1636, died 1672. Inscription on the pedestal of the vase “Pour 1660”); Polec 1931, p. 53; Zeri [& Rozman] 1983, pp. 104–105, Cat. No. 7, Fig. 9; Zeri and Rozman 1989, pp. 109–110, Cat. No. 1, Fig. I and 1; Natale and Morandotti 1989, pp. 206, 215, Fig. 230 (“Maestro del vaso a grottesche”).
Note: On the right side of the pedestal of the vase the inscription: BOS 880.

From Mannerism to Baroque

Although imported early-Baroque works prevailed in this period and those by itinerant artists, the 17th century paved the way for the future. The political circumstances in the region were relatively stabilized in spite of the Thirty Year War and the patronage gradually grew stronger. The arrival of the Jesuits in Ljubljana, the activity of the polymath Johann Weichard Valvasor, particularly his graphic workshop at Bogenšperk/Wagensperg Castle, and the foundation of the Academia operosorum at the end of the century were the key events of the time. 

Characteristic of sculptural production on the Slovenian territory in the 17th century were the so-called “golden altars”. As a rule, these were gilded and polychrome carved wooden retables with rich ornamentation, first with crustaceous patterns which turned into vine and grapes that covered architectural framework until the achantus foliage took over and obliterated architectural structure completely. The making of golden altars included several branches of fine arts: prints, carving, gilding, painting. Religious painting of the first half of the century still contains Mannerist elements; in the second half also secular motifs became more numerous, particularly genre scenes and aristocratic portraits. The artworks mainly echo northern early-Baroque influences. 

Noteworthy among the newcomers who settled in Carniola with their workshops were the painter and gilder Hans Georg Geiger von Geigerfeld in the mid-century, who had moved to Carniola from the region of the Central Alps, and the Fleming Almanach in the third quarter of the 17th century, known only by his nickname, who worked here only for a few years. The extraordinary productivity and skills of the latter are evidenced by his rare surviving works, mentions in Valvasor’s books, and aristocratic probate inventories.