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Permanent Collection


Marija Auersperg Attems

(Graz, 1816−1880)

Still Life with Flowers and Fruit
1848, oil, panel, 45 x 36 cm
signed lower left: AM (monogram)

NG S 967, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

The flowers in the wicker basket and the fruit arranged on the shelf show that the still life was painted at the height of summer. Maria Auersperg Attems kept up to date with modern gardening trends and painted plants with such accuracy that their botanical species can be identified. The uncommon flower, woven around the basket handle, is the trailing snapdragon, which was a new flower species in the area of present-day Slovenia at the time the painting was created. Also new are the brilliant fuchsia, which falls over the edge of the basket and originates from Central America, and the hummingbird fuchsia in the background of the bouquet. The basket also contains a dahlia, marigolds, petunias, dwarf morning glories and a rose. Of particular interest is the rose, a repeat-flowering hybrid that blooms in August and was a desirable novelty at the time of the painting. The amount of detail in the plants indicates that the flowers, which the painter would have kept in her garden and greenhouse, were painted from direct observation. Noticeable among the fruits on the marbled shelf is the overripe fig, which has gone limp and squashed, since figs are very sensitive to transport and spoil quickly. Still Life with Flowers and Fruit, painted in a slightly flawed perspective, is set against a dramatic overcast sky.

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.