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Permanent Collection

1600–1700

Luca Giordano

(Naples, 1634–1705)

Prometheus Bound
(c. 1666), oil, canvas, 124 x 99 cm

NG S 2017, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
Prometheus, the son of the Titan Iapetus, stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. With this he made men’s life easier. Zeus feared that they would become presumptuous – so he sent them plagues and punished Prometheus by having him chained to a remote crag in the Caucasus. Every day Zeus’ eagle tore out his liver, which then grew again. Prometheus was saved by Hercules.

The painting shows Prometheus as the eagle pecks out his liver. His hand, with the fingers spread wide, reflects his horror and suffering. Stylistically this powerful figure is fairly typical for Luca Giordano. There are many similarities with the Saint Michael in the Viennese Kunsthistorisches Museum (No. 350), which would indicate that the two pictures were painted at about the same time. The painting in Vienna once bore the inscription 1666, but this is no longer legible. It is likely that it, like our Prometheus, was painted a year or so earlier.

Provenance: Globočnik, Ljubljana; the painting was bought in 1946 by a private collector who sold it to the Narodna galerija in 1984. On the back of the canvas is an inscription in Latin and Gothic script: pinx: / Lucas Giordano geb. 1632 / + 1705 zu Neapel. Schüler seines Vaters / Antonio, des G. Ribera u. P. Berettini.
Exhibition: 1993, Ljubljana, No. 30.
Lit.: Zeri and Rozman 1993, p. 148, Cat. No. 30, Fig. No. 29.

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.