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Permanent Collection


Marija Auersperg Attems

(Graz, 1816−1880)

A Vase of Flowers
(1840−1850), oil, panel, 42 x 34 cm
signed upper right: AM (monogram), back: Marie Auersperg

NG S 970, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

The bouquet of flowers in the painting was picked in late May and early June. At the very top of the bouquet is a sprig of cinnabar red geranium, which, paired with the nasturtium on the shelf, gives an intense accent to a still life that mainly consists of flowers in subdued tones. The centre of the bouquet is occupied by roses, with a white rose flower above three centifolia roses. Parallel to the white rose is a light brown auricula, behind which a pale yellow version of the same flower is partly visible. The yellow flower on the right side of the bouquet is the wallflower, which has a pleasing fragrance and attracts insects. The colours of the bouquet are balanced with dwarf morning glories, bellflowers next to the geranium and tiny forget-me-nots above the wallflower. The flowers of various shapes and colours are harmoniously arranged in a bulbous vase with an embossed pattern. The moulded shelf on which the vase is placed is a common element of Viennese still life painting of the first half of the 19th century, which the painter, a lover of gardening and botany, was well acquainted with.

Biedermeier and Romanticism
Heavily censored public life between the Congress of Vienna and the Spring of Nations in 1848, weakened Church patronage, and the ascending middle class marked the era when life focused on the privacy of the family circle, individual dignity and the sense of belonging; this is expressed in the Central European art as the style of Biedermeier which coexisted with a Romantic view of nature. 

Portraiture was the genre of painting that saw its heyday in this era. Matevž Langus, Jožef Tominc, Mihael Stroj and Anton Karinger established themselves as individually formed portraitists who demonstrated their self-confidence as artists also through their self-portraits. The painters initially relied on formal characteristics of Neoclassicism. Stroj’s late portraits and particularly those by Karinger abandoned the Biedermeier manner and adopted a more realistic approach. 

Interest in landscape first appeared as the background of portraits; towards the mid-century first autonomous city vedute emerged. The Biedermaier landscape is idyllic, descriptive, and furnished with staffage figures. Painters were attracted by tourist destinations and locations that were related to homeland identity: Mt. Triglav, Lake Bohinj, Bled. Anton Karinger and Marko Pernhart established themselves as explicit landscapists. The latter became famous for his multi-part panoramas from mountain peaks. 

Still lifes became an attractive decoration of a middle-class home, and they also found favour with amateur women painters, one of whom was Countess Maria Auersperg Attems.