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Franz Caucig

(1755 Gorica – 1828 Vienna)

Two Women Bewail the Dead Patrocles Before the Funeral Pyre. Pen and grey ink, grey wash. 25.2 x 36.8 cm. Signed and dated: Franc.o Caucig (1)827.

Born in the Slovene town of Gorica, the painter Franz Caucig studied first at the Vienna Academy and from 1779 underwent further training in Bologna and Rome, where he adopted the Neo-classicist style and established friendly ties with Felice Giani and Antonio Canova. Caucig spent a total of ten years (1781–
1791) in the Eternal City before moving to Mantua, where he made plaster casts of classical sculptures and drawings after works of old masters for the Vienna Academy. A longish study trip to Venice (1791–1797) marked the end of his Italian peregrinations. After his return to Vienna in 1798, Caucig was appointed a professor at the Academy, later becoming its director in 1820.

Caucig had a strictly classicist style shaped by French Neo-classicism, the art of Angelika Kauffmann and Pompeo Batoni as well as the gran maniera of 17th century Bolognese painting. The austere severity of his compositions, the predilection for mythological and biblical themes, and the resonant colouring testify to his dogmatic artistic credo.

Caucig was an expert draughtsman who often used washed pen drawings with bistre or sepia as his medium. The present drawing demonstrates his predilection for clear linear forms and a well-structured layout. The individual protagonists and their gestures are splendidly rendered with confident strokes, while the various embellishments, like the armour of the fallen warrior, the classical vessels and the skyline of Troy, are appropriately detailed. The fluid and transparent wash is used to great effect, creating a vivid chiaroscuro. The result is a highly professional, yet artistically somewhat stiff interpretation of the mythical scene. The date of execution – 1827 – one year before the artist’s death, shows that Caucig remained true to his Neo-classicist principles all his life.

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