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Permanent Collection

Pietro Liberi - 1600–1700

(Padua, 1605 – Venice, 1687)

Born 1605 in Padua, died 1687 in Venice. He is said to have spent his first training years in Padovanini’s workshop. In 1628 he travelled to Constantinople, in 1632 he was captured on a Greek ship and taken to Tunis as a slave, from where he escaped to Malta. In 1633 he landed on Sicily and in 1637 travelled to Lisbon, Spain and the south of France, in 1638 he settled in Rome, where his son Marco, who later also became a painter and his father’s assistant, was born. In Siena, where he went in 1641, he painted the Rape of the Sabine Women and other works, in Florence a fresco on the ceiling of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri. He also visited Bologna. He settled in Venice in 1643 and in 1658–1659 worked on commissions in Vienna, Hungary, Bohemia and Germany. In 1653 the Doge Francesco Molin appointed him a Knight of Saint Mark’s (Cavaliere di San Marco). Liberi lived an eventful and luxurious life, with no lack of either money or fame, but also of gossip and envy. He was educated, but in his work he strove, as Sandrart wrote in 1683, “for grace and sweetness”. With erotic and secular subjects he made a name for himself among the aristocracy and collectors in Central Europe. Zanetti wrote in 1771 that: “he delighted in painting nudes, especially female ones, which were his best work.” He depicted mythological, literary, historical (The Victory of the Venetians at the Dardanelles for the Doges’ palace, 1660-64) and biblical scenes, more rarely portraits. In Rome Liberi was influenced by the work of the Carraccis and of Pietro da Cortona, in Venice he learned much from his Florentine friend Sebastiano Mazzoni, but no less from the contemporary painting which he met on his many travels. His facility in the depiction of skies and rich clothing reveals the influence of Veronese. Liberi is important as the initiator of the development of Venetian Baroque painting. His style goes beyond his younger contemporaries (Gregorio Lazzarini, Antonio Molinari) to the Venetian painters of the 18th century such as Giannantonio Pellegrini, Sebastiano Ricci and even Francesco Guardi.

Lit.: Rodolfo Pallucchini: La pittura veneziana del Seicento, I, Milano 1981 and 1993; Seicento, Vol. I-II, Milano 1989 (Text: Nicosetta Roio).

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.