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Permanent Collection

1600–1700

Giovanni Andrea Carlone

(Genoa, 1639−1697)

Aurora, Dawn
(c. 1678), oil, canvas, 129 x 97,5 cm

NG S 1129, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
Although the subject of this painting was often taken to be Flora and Zephyr, it is in fact an allegory of Aurora (Dawn). Every single iconographic element actually corresponds to those on the famous Aurora, which Guido Reni painted between 1612 and 1614 in the Casino of the palace of Cardinal Scipione Borghese on the Quirinal in Rome (today Palazzo Rospigliosi-Pallavicini). On both, Reni’s fresco and our painting, Aurora is moving from left to right and scattering flowers on the ground, whose horizon we see at the lower right. Aurora is accompanied by a putto carrying a little torch: according to Giovanni Pietro Bellori, on Reni’s fresco this figure represents one of Venus’ sons, who is driving away the clouds and summoning first light (G. P. Bellori: Le Vite de’ Pittori, Scultori e Architetti moderni, 1672, cited from ed. E. Borea, Turin 1976, p. 499).

A comparison with works which are undoubtedly by Carlone shows that this picture must be dated to his last Genoese period, when the painter returned from Rome to his native city around the year 1678. This is supported in particular by the similarities to the big fresco The Free Arts in one of the halls in the Palazzo Rosso in Genoa from 1691–1692. It is possible that our painting was to have decorated a ceiling and that its original size was much bigger.

Restored: 1960, ZSV, Ljubljana.
Provenance: Unknown. Entrusted to the Narodna galerija by the Government of Slovenia in 1950.
Exhibitions: 1960, Ljubljana, No. 22; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 20; 1985, Belgrade, No. 15.
Lit.: Cevc 1960, p. 21, Cat. No. 22, Fig. 12 (Venetian, 17C); Rizzi 1970, p. 234, note 3 (perhaps Genoese work, 17C); Rizzi 1972, p. 133, No. 22, (anonymous Genoese, 17C); Zeri [& Rozman] 1983, pp. 113–114, Cat. No. 20, Fig. 6 and on the cover; Aloisi 1998, pp. 76, 79, 85, Fig. 3.

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.