Exhibition at the Albertina in Vienna: From Rubens to Makart** - The Seventeenth Century


P.P. RUBENS, Portrait of his daughter Clara Serena (about 1616)*

As art historian I am very excited that there is actually a spectacular exhibition at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, a loan from the Princely Liechtenstein Collections, to be seen until June 10th, 2019. What I love in baroque art are light, colors and the typical details that bring the culture of the epoch nearer. The main attraction of this portrait is of course the way Clara looks to the painter/her father, clear and direct, but also what the little girl is wearing. She is dressed like a grown-up, this was usual until the 18th century. There were no child´s dresses. The dress sensation on this portrait is the huge white collar. Only children of wealthy families wore it (the wealthier the more decorated it was), as white collars were expensive and difficult to keep clean.


A. van DYCK, Portrait of Marie de Tassis, about 1629/30*

The outward appearance was very important in the baroque era. Everyone could and should see how wealthy one was, as there were dress codes for every person in every social class. So were only the members of the upper class allowed to wear silver and gold buttons, lace and fabrics, jewels and pearls, silk, furs and so on. It must have been frustrating if you wanted to climb up in society but were not allowed to wear what they wore. Coming once again back to the also white collar (to show your and your clothes´ cleanliness). It is made of finest fabric, bordered with lace, and let us know that the lady was a member of a very wealthy family. But not since a long time – the Thurn and Taxis had only some years before risen from the status of imperial free baron to the status of hereditary imperial count.

Uyl Jan Jansz. den (1595/96–1639) Frühstück mit Zinnkanne 1635 Öl auf Holz GE808 Breakfast with Pewter Jug Petit déjeuner à la cruche d‘étain

U.J. JANSZ, Breakfast with Pewter Jug (1635)

Still life was very popular in the 17th century. It had begun with Netherlandish painting of 16th century, one can very often see tables bursting with plants, flowers, glasses, vases, silver or tin plates, jugs, candlesticks etc. The funny thing on this painting is that there is almost nothing to eat on it – only three plums and a lemon, the latter rare and exotic, was cultivated in greenhouses or imported from the European South. The more significant objects are the many reflecting vessels, even the tin´s lid mirrors the bowl: there is the elaborate drinking glass, the silver bowl, the plates and the jug. And please, have a look onto the huge napkin (no, it is no table cloth). Why was it that size? Because it covered the biggest part of the dress that was not cleaned very often.


F. SNYDERS, Lioness

Last but not least the painting (taken in the exhibition with my mobile) of the so called lying lioness that attracted me very much as I love all felines. I would rather say it is a playing lioness. Our cat Topolino looks very similar when he is unobserved and content with life and weather.

*All photos ©LIECHTENSTEIN, The Princely Collections.

**There is a catalogue: From Rubens to Makart. Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, ed. Klaus Albrecht Schröder.