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Permanent Collection

1600–1700

Jacob van Kerckhoven

(Antwerp, c. 1637 – Venice, after 1712)

Fish, Two Wicker Flasks, Onions and Walnuts
oil, canvas, 73 x 94 cm

NG S 829, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The painting represents fish of various types (salmon, herrings), which are arranged in no particular order together with a crab, a bag full of black olives, onions and walnuts, next to two wicker flasks and some cutlery. This is thus a still life which is not decorative and which, without the slightest academic prejudice, shows a scene from everyday life. From the type of food and the way in which it is served (e. g. the bag of olives), we can conclude that this is food for poor people, or people of the lowest strata of society. The attribution of this important painting to Jacob van Kerckhoven was suggested in conversation by Eduard A. Safarik. Previously it had been attributed to the Flemish school, then Fererico Zeri ascribed it to a Lombard artist of the first half of the 18th century. Two oval still lifes (both 63 x 77 cm), undoubtely the work of the same hand, were in the Polleti collection in Milan several years ago. One was Dead Turkey with Onions, a Wicker Flask and a Basket, the other Cabbage with a Crab, Onions and a Frying Pan; these are very similar to our painting. They were attributed to the great Lombard realist Giacomo Ceruti, but more recent literature has not confirmed this.

Preservation: Good. The painting is trimmed at the upper edge.
Restored: 1980, Kemal Selmanović. The damage at the oval edge has been retouched, further also the damage on the dark background in the upper right and on the big fish on the cask. Provenance: LBG 159; Rogaška Slatina spa, 1903;
Provenance: LBG 159; Rogaška Slatina spa, 1903; Narodna galerija, Ljubljana, 1932, old. Inv. No. 416 (Pieter Sneyers).
Exhibition: 1960, Ljubljana, No. 106; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 44; 1985, Belgrade, No. 28; 1989, Ljubljana, No. 9.
Lit.: Cevc 1960, p. 40, Cat. No. 106 (Pieter Sneyers [?]; Zeri [& Rozman] 1983, pp. 126−127, Fig. 41, V (Lombard School, first half 18C); Zeri & Rozman 1989, pp. 114−115, Cat. No. and Fig. 8; La natura morta in Italia, I, Milan, 1989, p. 356, Fig. 429 (text Eduard A. Safarik).

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.