Madonna and Child Served by Two Angels
(c. 1620), oil, panel, 47,2 x 56,3 cm
NG S 811, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
This is a painting in two parts. The central one, which is painted in several colours, represents the Virgin Mary and the Child in a landscape; they are being served by angels, one of whom is offering a platter of fruit. Around this central scene is an illusory frame in grisaille technique with various scenes which show (clockwise) The Adoration of the Shepherds, The Magi before Herod, The Adoration of the Magi and The Flight into Egypt. In the four corners of the illusory frame are painted prints representing the four evangelists, who are identified by their names and the appropriate symbolic attributes: clockwise, beginning from the top left, are John, Luke, Mark and Matthew. The motif of the central scene is characteristic of the art of the Counter-Reformation and is connected with the story of the flight into Egypt.
The style of this painting is typical of Frans II Francken and his workshop and can be dated to around 1620.
Other paintings by Frans II Francken, which with greater or smaller variants feature a similar frame in grisaille technique, are known. One of these versions, with the Madonna and Child in a Landscape in the centre, was in the collection of Erik Alport, oil on wood, 41.9 x 53.3 cm, which was sold at auction at Christie’s in London on 21 July 1972, No. 116, as a work by Frans II Francken and Jan van Kessel; another version, also the Madonna and Child in a Landscape, oil on wood, 51 x 63.5 cm, was on sale in London in 1980; a third, Allegory of Charles V’s Renunciation of the Throne, oil on wood, 55.2 x 43.2 cm and with scenes from the life of Christ on the frame, was also sold in London, Chaucer Fine Arts Inc., 24 Nov. to 23. Dec. 1983, Cat. No. 2. Such versions show that assistants and collaborators worked on them, but these were not the same people as those who helped to produce our picture.
Restored: 1960, ZSV, Ljubljana.
Provenance: Janez Hradecky (?); Narodni muzej, Ljubljana, until 1934 (Inv. No. 2954; van Balen); Narodna galerija, Ljubljana, old Inv. No. 106 (18C).
Exhibitions: 1960, Ljubljana, No. 100; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 88.
Lit.: Vodnik 1931, p. 106 (German, 16C; text F. Stele); Cevc 1960, p. 39, Cat. No. 100, Fig. 47 (attribution by H. Gerson of The Hague); Zeri [& Rozman] 1983, pp. 158–159, Cat. No. 88, Fig. 86.