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Permanent Collection

1600–1700

Alvise (Luigi) Benfatto, attributed

(Verona, 1554 – Venice, 1609)

Ecce Homo
(1570−1609), oil, canvas, 191,5 x 103,8 cm

NG S 1296, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The scene, taken from the Gospel according to Saint John (19,4), depicts Pontius Pilate as he speaks the words Ecce homo (Behold, the man!), showing the crowd of Jews Jesus, in a scarlet robe and crowned with thorns, to mock him as the King of the Jews. The artist portrayed Pilate as a Turkish potentate wearing a turban, as if to put the pagan Roman procurator on the same level as an Ottoman vizier.

The conditional attribution to Alvise Benfatto is based on the style of the painting, which wavers between Paolo Veronese and Palma the Younger. The typology of the figures and the mannerist posture of the Redeemer’s body are reminiscent of the former, while the colour scale and the dense chiaroscuro structure of the light and shade are close to Palma. If the painting is really by Alvise, then it must have been painted at the time of the artist’s maturity.

Restored: 1960.
Provenance: Szapáry Castle, Murska Sobota; Narodni muzej, Ljubljana, before 1931 (bought as a Venetian work by a follower of Titian); Narodna galerija, Ljubljana, from 1934 onwards, old Inv. No. 109 (Palma the Younger).
Exhibitions: 1960, Ljubljana, No. 11; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 4.
Lit: Vodnik 1931, p. 106, Fig. on p. 109 (Venetian painter from the circle around Titian, text F. Stele); Umetnost 1936–37, p. 3 with Fig. (attribution made by Bernard Berenson during his visit in Ljubljana in 1936); Mikuž 1941, p. 173 (Palma il Giov.); Cevc 1960, p. 19, Cat. No. 11, Fig. 5 (Palma il Giov.); Gamulin 1964, pp. 73, 80 (Palma il Giov.); Rizzi 1970, p. 234, note 3 (Venetian, 16/17C); Rizzi 1972, p. 132, No. 11 (Venetian Mannerist); Zeri [& Rozman] 1983, pp. 102–103, Cat. and Fig. No. 4.

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.