17th C, Baroque, Biblical, Attr. to Frans II Francken (Antwerp, 1581-Antwerp, 1642), The Prodigal Son, Oil on Panel, Mark of the Panel Maker Lambrecht Steens on the Rear Side, 50 x 64 cm, Framed
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Baroque; Attributed to Frans II Francken( Antwerp, 1581-Antwerp, 1642), Mark of the Panel Maker Lambrecht Steens on the Rear Side; The structure of the painting is particular. A central image in color is surrounded by a frame with all kinds of scenes in grisaille or grey monochrome tones. In fact, this was a division that already appeared in printmaking during the later 16th century. Just like with a comic strip, it offered the opportunity to work in a very narrative way. Here, the story of the prodigal son is told through several scenic images. The main scene tells us how the prodigal son wastes his time with banquets, dancing and courting. These are all examples of vain pastimes that conflict with the Christian standards of diligence and devotion. The first episode of the cycle on the frame, starts in the top left corner. He asks his father for a part of his inheritance. Then he says goodbye to his father and goes out into the wide world. Because the son has spent all his money and has debts, he is expelled from the inn. A following image shows how he -completely impoverished-must beg at a church. Then he asks a pig farmer for work. Once hired, he has to toil for a living. Eventually, he decides to return home where his father receives him with open arms. Glad that his son has repented, he organizes a feast. This type of painting with the combination of a central image in color and frame-images in grisaille was one of the trademarks of two Antwerp painting studios: the one of Gillis Mostaert (Hulst, 1528-Antwerp, 1598) and Frans Francken II (Antwerp, 1581 – Antwerp, 1642). In Mostaert’s studio, the central panel and the painted frame were usually made separately and then assembled. In Francken’s workshop the central panel as well as the frame were painted on one wooden panel. The scenes of the grisailles have been repeated in other paintings, for example in a painting now preserved in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (inv° SK-C-286).