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Permanent Collection


Jožef Tominc

(Gorizia, 1790 – Gradišče nad Prvačino, 1866)

Captain Polić
oil, canvas, 77 x 68 cm

NG S 1656, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
This half-length portrait of a male sitter is set against a neutral brown background with some subtle lighter shading around the left shoulder. The subject is sitting upright in a self-confident pose, his arms folded in front of him. When individuals of high social status pose for a portrait painter, they can feel somewhat vulnerable. They hide their vulnerability by twisting their body slightly and smiling. But if an arms-folded pose is accompanied by a slight inclination or twist of the body, so that the right half of the body is no longer a mirror image of the left, this shows that the sitter feels dominant. Men frequently make use of an arms-folded pose in order to seem more powerful. Tominc painted this somewhat impatient and pompous man with realistic precision in fashionable pin-striped trousers and with a diamond breast pin.
The portrait was painted while Tominc was living in Trieste, where he became one of the most sought after portrait artists among the city’s wealthy middle classes, thanks to his skill at capturing not only the external appearance of his clients, but also their character.

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.