This festive painting by Hieronymus Francken II depicts a group of musicians on a raised platform serenading dancers below. They are in a luxurious room adorned with tooled leather walls and carved ceiling beams, and further decorated with paintings, sculptures and metalwork. Alongside the dancers are many engaging vignettes, including the dog and cat sparring at lower right and a young man at left, gazing outward as though to draw the viewer into the scene. According to Dr. Ursula Härting, this work of 'extraordinary quality' by Hieronymus may also include some participation by his brother Frans Francken II (1584-1642). The brothers evidently found success with such scenes, for two other nearly identical versions exist by Hieronymus, one of which is dated 1607, as well as another similar painting by Frans (see U. Härting, Frans Francken II, Freren, 1989, pp. 177-178, nos. 432-434A, pp. 366-367). The source of this subject was likely their uncle Hieronymus Francken I (circa 1540-1610), a court painter in France. The younger Franckens adapted such dancing scenes to their Flemish clientele, however, emphasizing their moralizing messages against overindulgence. The overall impression left by the painting is, however, in the words of Härting, 'virtually contagious entertainment' (private communication, 7 April 2002).
PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Acquired by the family of the present owner prior to 1929.
About Hieronymus Francken II
A member of the famous Francken family of Antwerp, which produced three generations of painters, the Baroque artist Hieronymous Francken II painted courtly scenes, religious subject matter, and still lifes. He probably trained with his father, Frans Francken I, and in 1605 was apprenticed to his uncle Ambrosius I. In his meticulously detailed painting The Archdukes Albert and Isabella Visiting a Collector's Cabinet (1621–3), Francken depicts the archdukes Albert and Isabella, the Habsburg governors of the Southern Netherlands, as they visit the private gallery of a Flemish collector. Artworks by other Flemish artists are identifiable in the cavernous space, along with shells and a stuffed bird of paradise from the Spice Islands, monkeys, dogs, and musical instruments. The depiction of a sunflower—first seen by Europeans in the mid-1500s—is thought to be the first appearance of the flower in a painting.
Flemish, 1578-1623, Antwerp, Belgium, based in Antwerp, Belgium