Frans Francken II (1581-1642)
Circa 1600 - 1620
W 29" (frame 37") × H 20 1/2" (frame 28 1/4")
Stock # Marh2638
This painting depicts an Italianate scene by the Flemish painter, Frans Francken the Younger (1581-1642). Signed Frans Francken on the lower left side. Oil on oak panel. Frans Francken II is possibly the best-known member of an active family of painters from Antwerp. The father, Frans I (1542-1616), was known to have inspired his style, for the large-scale religious and historical compositions, though Frans II was renowned for depicting a wider range of subject matters from landscapes and genre scenes to also historical pictures. It can be understood that there is a clear distinction in both works, particularly as his scenes are more diverse and imaginative than his father’s, with more crowds of figures. Within this painting, we see a grouping of figures who surround the fictive architectural colonnade which is covered in elaborate carvings of swags and columns topped with ionic capitals. At the centre of this architectural feature stands a sculptural group which depicts Venus, who holds burning hearts whilst Cupid sits on the plinth below with his bow and arrows. With closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the figures are not just admiring the central sculpture but some have been shot by Cupid’s arrows. It seems that this is not simply a genre or landscape scene but has a mythological undertone. This bodes for an interesting interpretation, for the painting involves aristocratic members of society in amongst what appears on the surface to be a genre scene. The figures wear elegant costumes, with richly embroidered materials such as intricate lace ruffs that allude to their status in being a part of the Dutch elite. Genre paintings such as this were initially reflected upon and were used to help define ideals about the family, love, courtship, duty and other aspects of life. Furthermore, the two most central figures in the foreground fall into the arms of one another and can only refer to as being struck by Cupid's arrow, and thus it is clear that this painting goes beyond the materialistic first impression of wealth and status but has a more complex ideology and the question of love is.
Frans Francken the Younger was a Flemish painter who created altarpieces and furniture panels and gained his reputation chiefly through his small and delicate cabinet pictures with historical, mythological or allegorical themes. He is the best-known and most prolific member of the large Francken family of artists.