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Permanent Collection

Frans Francken II - 1600–1700

(Antwerp, 1581–1642)

Born 1581 in Antwerp, died there in 1642. Frans Francken (or Franck) was a member of a painting family which was active in Antwerp for almost two centuries. His father, Frans I, taught him the technical skills of the profession, which he then followed together with, or at least jointly with his three brothers, all of whom were painters. Frans II is the best-known representative of this painting dynasty and examples of his prolific production, in which he was often helped by assistants and other Antwerp painters, can be found in many European museums. Etchings were made after his paintings and we know many of them in several replicas. His compositions were based on his father’s and show the influence of late northern and “international” Mannerism: later he also adopted various motifs of contemporary Flemish artists.

Lit.: Ursula Alice Harting: Studien zur Kabinettbildermalerei des Frans Francken II, 1518-1642, Hildesheim-Zürich-New York 1983; De Maere & Wabbes: Ilustrated Dictionary, Vol. I and II, 1994.

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.