FRANS FRANCKEN II (Antwerp, 1581 - 1642).
"Christ in the house of Martha and Mary."
Oil on copper.
The biblical scene is set in an austere interior with hardly any furniture or decoration, where the viewer's full attention is captured by the protagonists of the scene and the magnificent still life that accompanies them. In the foreground, in the central area of ??the composition, we see the central figure of Christ seated in a lilac tunic and partially covered by a bright red cloak that casually slides over his shoulder. On both sides, two women, one sitting with a book on her lap, remains attentive to the scene that takes place, while the second woman, this one standing with an apron and rolled up sleeves, directing her gesture and her gaze towards Jesus. It stands out in the background where you can see the presence of several characters that could be servants. Clearly, the scene alludes to the episode recounted in the Gospel of Luke (10, 38-42), in which Jesus goes to the house of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus. Marta complains to him that she does not stop serving him while Mary is just sitting listening to the Savior.
The most fruitful of the Francken family, Frans II, or the Younger, learned from his father, Frans Francken the Elder, whose style he cultivated at first. In 1605 he entered the Guild of Painters of San Lucas de Antwerp, thus starting a career that would last until 1640, in which he specialized in cabinet painting. His contribution to this genre was of great importance, influencing artists like Teniers. His style is based on that of Jan Brueghel de Velours, although it also denotes strong influences from his father and uncle, Hieronimus Francken. In his first works, debts with Mannerism and 16th century painting are appreciated, both in the structure of the compositions and in the rhythm and expression of his figures. They also include obvious references to the work of Italian artists such as Rafael, Veronés or Zuccaro. In the same way, the use of prints by Dürer and Lucas de Leyden has been shown for some of their figures.
Frans Francken the Younger's extensive production can be divided into four stages. His youthful works denote his initial connection with the themes and styles of the 16th century, with high points of view and a clear lack of spatial cohesion. Also, use local colors, especially browns, blues, and greens. Characteristic are his figures with large black eyes, achieved through touches of carbon black, which will last throughout his career. In a second stage, starting in 1610, his palette will become clearer, at the same time that he begins to be clearly recognizable for his themes and interpretations. It is the moment for the inclusion of figures, especially stereotypical women who will be repeated throughout his work. In a third period, from 1620, his typical male figures wearing a Phrygian turban or cap began to appear, while his compositions denoted a deeply eclectic character. The general luminosity now reaches its zenith, determining the color scheme of the work and partly following the general harmonization typical of the Flemish school. In the last phase of his production, starting in 1630, Francken evolved towards compositions where the local color gave way to general tones, often brown, following both the style of Rubens and that of the contemporary Dutch school. In addition to cabinet painting, Francken captured mythological and biblical themes, some altar works and, in collaboration with other artists, painted the figures in landscapes or interior scenes by Tobias Verhaecht, Joost de Momper II, Pieter Neefs or Paul Vredeman de Vries , among others.