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Franz Xaver Karl Palko

(1724 Breslau – 1767 Prague)

The Creation of Adam; God the Father warns Adam and Eve Not to Eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Two etchings. Each circa 23.8 x 17.0 cm. Nagler 3, 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. These two depictions from the Book of Genesis, which were evidently designed as companion pieces, are distinguished by their fluent, vigorous linework and striking chiaroscuro effects. Palko’s etching technique is full of vibrant energy that is appropriate to the drama of the creation scenes. The artist can draw on a rich repertoire of very varied hatching patterns, small pen strokes, stipples and other graphic highlights, which he uses in a very efficient and visually effective manner. The astutely observed narrative details reveal the signature of a highly original and imaginative artist. The creation of Adam is depicted with dramatic verve. God the Father floats down from the heavens with a magnificent expansive gesture and forcefully breathes life into the first man; apparently unmoved by this supernatural event a hare dozes peacefully in the background. In the second scene God the Father angrily points to the tree of knowledge. Adam, in turn, points with a humble, apologetic gesture to the snake, while the gentle gaze of the arrestingly beautiful and shapely Eva makes it clear why Adam succumbed to her seductive charms. Between them stands a peacock as a visible symbol of vanity. Tradition has it that the bird sang sweetly in paradise but lost its voice the moment it was banned thence along with the first human couple. Superb, contrasting impressions with thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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