Friday, September 4, 2015

Jan Kupecky

Portrait of a young Polish woman
other details unknown

Jan Kupecky or Jan Kupecky (1667-1740), born in Slovakia, was a Czech portrait painter during the baroque. He was active in Hungary, Slovakia, Vienna and Nurnberg. As the most significant portrait painter of contemporary Germany, he was commissioned by a large number of German princes, church dignitaries rich merchants and scholars, and his works were popularized by engravings even during his lifetime. Bernhard Vogel produced a large number of engravings after his paintings. Through his pupils and followers his influence and artistic example remained alive and widespread for a long time. Although he spent most of his life outside his homeland, he always considered himself a Czech painter.

He was the son of Protestant (Czech Brethren) parents from Bohemia who sought refuge in Slovakia (constituting the core of Royal Hungary at that time) from religious persecution by the Catholics. At the age of twenty, he went on a long Italian study trip. In Rome, a son of the Polish king John III Sobieski, helped him to become famous. He returned to Vienna in 1709, after twenty-two years in Venice and Rome. We know very little of his Italian activity as well as his early works and his setting in Vienna.

He, the Protestant Kupecky, who faithfully clung to his ancestor's religion, remained withdrawn and isolated in Vienna's Catholic milieu, which was under the influence of the court and the aristocracy. However this concept is partly contradicted by the fact that the master had significant courtly commissions while working in Vienna. He painted portraits of various members of the dynasty, Prince Eugene of Savoy, several aristocrats, and, in Karlovy Vary, even of the Russian Czar Peter I. The rich oeuvre of this period comprises a series of gorgeous portraits of his family, friends and the painter himself, as well as several persons, whose identity in unknown. In 1733, fearing religious persecution, he fled from Vienna to Nurnberg with his family and worked there until his death in 1740.