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Permanent Collection

Otto van Veen - 1600–1700

(Leiden, 1556 – Brussels, 1629)

Born 1556 in Leiden, died 1629 in Brussels; also known by his latinised surname as Venius. In 1575 he travelled to Italy, where he worked for some time with Federico Zuccari in Rome; in 1580 he returned to the North, where he probably first stopped in Munich, but in 1583 we again find him in the Netherlands. Van Veen painted for very important clients, including the deputy Alessandro Farnese, numerous bishops and archbishops; today he is known above all as the teacher of Peter Paul Rubens, who worked in his workshop between 1596 and 1600, first as a pupil, then as an assistant. Van Veen’s style was at first strongly influenced by Italian, particularly Roman, Mannerism (Taddeo and Federico Zuccari) with many reminiscences of Raphael and Michelangelo, later his style changed under the influence of Flemish Mannerism and finally his typological motifs were also enhanced under the influence of Rubens.

Lit.: Justus Müller-Hofstede, Zum Werke des Otto van Veen 1596-1600, Bulletin Koninklijk Musea voor Schone Kunsten, 6, Brussel 1957.

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.