Information from the museum, 8 May 2010
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is responding to the sensational auction recently held by the Dorotheum by dedicating a special room to Frans Francken to show a selection of his works from its collection.
Following the Dorotheum’s highly successful sale of Frans Francken’s painting Man forced to choose between virtue and vice, the Kunsthistorisches Museum shows a selection of works by this innovative master from Antwerp. Director-general Sabine Haag is pleased to have the opportunity “to showcase this versatile, though until now somewhat neglected, Flemish master and display treasures not normally on show”.
For two months, five works from the holdings of the Picture Gallery will be on show in Room 24, documenting the wealth of subjects and the fertile imagination that mark the oeuvre of an artist who, though a contemporary of Peter Paul Rubens, remained unaffected by the latter’s style. A number of subjects typical of Flemish baroque painting were invented, or at least greatly influenced, by Francken. In addition to two paintings featuring witches, the Kunsthistorisches Museum also owns mythological and religious scenes by him, as well as a precursor of the “gallery picture”: an encyclopaedic still-life depicting a contemporary Kunstkammer, a chamber of art and natural wonders. The paintings on show in Vienna were executed between 1606 and 1625 and clearly document the artist’s development: his palette changes from muted olives, browns and blues – see, for example, the “Crucifixion” – to the lighter, more dazzling pastel-like colours that are characteristic of the second decade.
Executed on his preferred supports of panel or copper, Francken’s imaginative and colourful paintings feature highly-detailed scenes. A wonderful example is Croesus showing Solon his treasures, with examples of Croesus’ wealth displayed in what looks like the richly-appointed home of a wealthy Flemish burgher. This outstanding painting also documents Francken’s love of detail and his virtuoso handling.