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Permanent Collection

Peter van Kessel - 1600–1700

(Antwerp, ? – Ratzeburg, 1668)

A Flemish painter from Antwerp. Around 1658 he was presumably active in Würzburg and Bamberg. As a painter of still lifes he moved from Danzig (Gdansk) to Lübeck in 1668, then he was to go to the Danish court at Copenhagen at the invitation of the king of Denmark. He had to leave Lübeck because of a conflict with the city authorities and went to Ratzeburg, where he died at the beginning of October 1668. The Pokrajinski muzej in Maribor holds four of his signed works: Vanitas, dated 1662, Fruit, dated 1662, Hunting Still Life, not dated, and Equestrian Parade Equipment, dated: Rats. 1662. Still Life with a Globe, a Skull, a Violin and Hunting Equipment, dated 1665, is in the collection of De danske Kongers kronologiske Samling in Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen. Still life with a Monstrance and Flowers, signed and dated: P.V. KESSEL FI A BAMBERCH 1658 originates from Seehof Castle near Bamberg and is the property of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich. The still life Basket with Grapes – the picture is a fragment, the dating is not legible, but the signature is – is in the collection of the art dealer Peter Lipp in Berlin. Vanitas, signed and dated 1664, 76 x 87 cm, was on sale in New York in 1989 (Sotheby’s, 7 April 1989, No. 39), as was A Huntsman with a French Beagle in a Landscape, 124.5 ×157.5 cm (New York, Christie’s, 16 October 1997, No. 10).

Lit.: Th. Hach, Peter van Kessel, Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, VIII, Berlin & Stuttgart 1885, pp. 330-335; Weilbach, Kunstnerleksikon, Vol. II, 1949, p. 11; Sydney H. Paviere, A Dictionary of Flower, Fruit, and Still Life Painters: 15th - 17th Centuries, I, Amsterdam 1962, p. 38; Natura in posa: La grande stagione della natura morta europea, Editor Ingvar Bergström, Claus Grimm, Marco Rosci, Michel & Fabrice Faré, Juan Antonio Gaya Nuno, Milano 1977; De Maere & Wabbes: Illustrated Dictionary, Vol. I and II, Brussels 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.