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Permanent Collection


Peter van Kessel

(Antwerp, ? – Ratzeburg, 1668)

Crayfish, Dead Birds and Vegetables
oil, canvas, 87 x 119,5 cm
signed left on stone table: P. V. KESSEL. F

private collection
Arranged on a stone table are an earthenware goblet with the coat of arms of an aristocratic family and at the left an unidentifiable vegetable, two woodcocks, cheese and leeks. On the cheese stands a platter with a heap of crayfish; on the right two ducks are hung between two strings of garlic and onions.

The painting is signed on the end of the table on the left side; it is not part of a series of Kessel’s works which have survived in Slovenia. Any possible iconographic significance has yet to be discovered.

Restored: Čoro Škodlar after World War II; 1987 cleaned by Kemal Selmanović.
Provenance: Collection of the counts of Attems, Slovenska Bistrica; confiscated 1945; FCC, 1945 (FCC register, No. 6379); from 1959 to 1989 on loan to the Dolenjski muzej, Novo mesto, from 1989 onwards to the Narodna galerija, Ljubljana.
Exhibition: 1989, Ljubljana, No. 30.
Lit.: Zeri and Rozman 1989, pp. 129–130, Cat. and Fig. No. 30.

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.