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Permanent Collection


Franc Kavčič/Caucig

(Gorizia, 1755 – Vienna, 1828)

Ideal Landscape with a Young Man Killing a Snake
before 1810, oil, canvas, 122 x 177,5 cm

NG S 3339, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The oblong imaginary landscapes shows two threatening motifs: dark clouds anticipate a storm, on the right bank of river a young man is killing a dangerous snake. The murky ruined aqueduct on the left and the dark mass of trees and elevation on the right convey an anguished mood. Sunshine still beams through the aqueduct arch and illuminates the falling water; the snake - killer and his companion are in the light and they are about to win; a promise of better weather is seen in the distance. A sublime thrill is a part of the charm of the light and a brillant colours of the southern landscape. As in the writings of Kant and English philosophers that were widely read and valued in the time of Neoclassicism, the mightiness of Nature with the aesthetics of the beauty of pleasing horror is present here. This is also enhanced by the ambiguity of the murkiness and rain, whether a natural a natural phenomenon or a sombre mood. Such ambiguous character is typical of Poussin's works.

Preservation: The strecher was to weak and unsuitable and it caused loss of paint; it has been replaced. Tinted chalk ground.
Restored: 2006, Kemal Selmanović, Ljubljana
Provenance: Before 1810: painted for Palais Auersperg in Vienna; 1953: the painting in Idomeneo Saal was bought, together with palace, by consul Alfred Weiss. After his death the palace was sold in 1987; several owners followed; 2006: the National Gallery of Slovenia bought the painting from a private collector of Vienna.
Exhibition: Franc Kavčič/Caucig; Paintings for Palais Auersperg in Vienna; National Gallery of Ljubljana, 24 October 2007 - 10 February 2008
Lit. Annalen 1810, p. 359 ( several scenes from Gessner's Idylls and after Athenaeus in the palace of prince Auersperg in Vienna ); Boeckh 1825, p. 328 ( twelve paintings, part landscapes part histories); Kukuljević 1858, p. 153 ( various paintings showing the " environs " and historical scenes ); Palais Auersperg, c. 1957, p. 23 ( Red Marble Hall, overdoors showing heroic landscapes, latter half 18th c. ); Rozman 1978, p. 61


Franc Kavčič/Caucig was an important representative of European Neo-classicist painting. Even though he depicted stories from Greco-Roman antiquity, his ethical message is fully contemporary and mirrors the time of great social changes. 

In the 1780s, Kavčič was trained in Rome where he drew also at the French Academy at the time of the second sojourn of Jacques Louis David in the Eternal City, and when Angelika Kauffmann occupied the former residence of Anton Raphael Mengs. After more than twenty years of professorship at the Vienna art academy, Kavčič was appointed director of its painting and sculpture school. He also led the painting department of the Viennese porcelain factory, and towards the end of his life he became an honorary member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Several of his compositions thus appeared on the products of the imperial porcelain works. 

His paintings are characteristic for their compositional monumentality and clarity, impeccable modelling by means of sharp drawing, thin polished paintlayers, underlined role of female protagonists in his scenes, and academic reserve. He relied for his motifs on the rich treasury of classical history and mythology as well as biblical stories. The Old-Testament Judgement of Solomon as a narrative of the ruler’s wisdom was thus a very suitable subject matter for the prestigious commission from Emperor Francis I. As to literary sources, Kavčič was inspired by the Idylls of Salomon Gessner. The painter’s landscapes are of the Arcadian type, they are ideal and thoughtfully composed in accord with classical rules and his travel memories. They contain architectural vestiges of the glorious past and are animated by means of tiny pastoral scenes. 

The painting output by Kavčič had some influence on his numerous Viennese students in the first half of the 19th century, while in the history of art he also left trace by taking part in the intense polemics with the members of the Brotherhood of St Luke, when he defended the then already conservative ideas.