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Franz Xaver Karl Palko

(1724 Breslau – 1767 Prague)

God the Father Warns Adam and Eve not to Eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Etching. 23.8 x 17 cm. Nagler 4.

The portrait and history painter, Franz Palko, son of Anton Palko, a painter from Breslau, studied under Bibiena at the Vienna Academy and in Venice, where he was inspired by the work of Giuseppe Maria Crespi. Palko went on to pursue a successful career as a painter, undertaking commissions inter alia in Bratislava, Kromeriz, Brno and Dresden, where King Friedrich August II appointed him painter to the Saxon-Polish court in 1752. Like many other foreign artists seeking their fortune in Dresden at the time Palko is likely to have been driven out of the Saxon royal seat by the turmoil of the Seven Years War (1756-63). He subsequently lived and worked in Munich, where he was appointed painter to the electoral court of Bavaria in 1764, as well as in Prague. Palko was a talented etcher, although his printmaking oeuvre consists merely of four “intelligently etched sheets” (Nagler), all of which are of exquisite rarity.

The present scene from the Book of Genesis is remarkable for its lively, nimble drawing style and striking chiaroscuro. Palko’s etching technique is vibrant and of great vigour. He disposes of a richly varied repertoire of hatching patterns, strokes, dots and other graphic accents, which he employs in a highly efficient and visually memorable manner. The sensitively observed narrative details reveal the hand of a highly original and imaginative artist. God the Father’s wrath is portrayed in arresting fashion. Adam points to the serpent with a humble, apologetic gesture; the gentle gaze of the strikingly pretty, shapely Eve makes it clear why Adam succumbed to her seductiveness. Between them stands a peacock as a symbol of vanity. Tradition has it that the bird sang sweetly in paradise but lost its voice as soon as it was banished along with the first human couple. A strong, contrasting impression, with thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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