Baroque opulence and plain fare

About the baroque period



Baroque opulence and plain fare

Baroque opulence and plain fare

While surfeit and splendour reigned at the tables of Baroque princes, peasants and their retainers ate simple meals round the family table in smoky farm kitchens. Cooking implements and pots were made of clay or wood; objects made of glass – which were in fact produced in Carinthia at the time – could only be afforded by the wealthier classes.

The spread of Protestant beliefs posed a great challenge for the Catholic Habsburg rulers, who during the course of the Counter-reformation came down hard on the adherents of the new religion and also curtailed the previously considerable power of the Carinthian Estates.

Political showpieces

When the Klagenfurt goldsmith Pierey made a stately silver ensemble consisting of an ornate basin and an urn for the Carinthian Estates in 1616, the latter’s political power was already approaching its rapid end: in 1622 their minting privilege was withdrawn, to be followed in 1628 by the banishing of the Protestant nobility. The Estates and the Assembly were now limited to ratifying and carrying out Habsburg demands. The urn was thenceforth used as a ballot box for electing the Estate representatives, and until 1988 was still being used to elect the members of the Carinthian State Government. 

Connoisseur and diplomat

Baron Johann von Khevenhüller (1538–1606) was Emperor Rudolf II’s envoy at the Spanish court, and in 1579 while in Spain commissioned the famous Italian artist Jacopo da Trezzo to make a portrait bust of him in marble. This important work shows Khevenhüller in armour and a stately pose that recalls imperial Roman sculpture.

Protestant commemoration of the dead

Commemorating Judith Kulmer, this epitaph comes from the chapel at Hohenstein Castle near Liebenfels. In an arrangement typical of Reformation art it shows a central crucifixion of Christ within a stone triumphal arch surrounded by three female figures who with their attributes stand for the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Depicted in the lowest register is the family of the donor Christoph Andreas Kulmer zum Rosenpichl auf Hohenstein worshipping the risen Christ. A striking feature are the many biblical quotations, attesting to the dominance of the written word in the art of the Reformation.

Fromiller’s pictorial worlds

Born around 1693, the Carinthian Baroque artist Josef Ferdinand Fromiller is still known for his monumental frescos such as those decorating the two armorial halls of the Klagenfurt Landhaus. He also painted numerous oils such as this family portrait. Executed in 1759 shortly before the artist’s death, it shows him and his family as personifications of the four seasons. Active mainly in Klagenfurt as a painter, engraver, etcher and draughtsman, Fromiller quickly became popular in aristocratic circles, establishing himself as Carinthia’s most successful Baroque artist. Regular and lucrative commissions from the secular and ecclesiastical elites allowed him to achieve considerable affluence. 

Baroque string music

Composers and musicians of the Baroque era sought to incorporate the new spirit of the times coupled with human emotion in their music, and with the opera created an art form that continues to triumph today. Italy was the centre of Baroque music. Yong musicians were sent to music schools there and on their return disseminated what they had learnt across the rest of Europe.

With origins in the ancient Near East, the lute is a stringed instrument with a deep, rounded body. It played an outstanding role in Baroque music, particularly as the accompanying instrument for ballads and songs. The mandora on display is as it were the younger sister of the lute, with only six instead of nine to eleven strings.

Artworks made from clay

The Carinthian clay deposits in the valleys of Lavant, Gail and Rosen as well as the Keutschach Lakes Valley provided the raw material for making ceramic products in the form of earthenware, which was fired at relatively low temperatures. A special type is the well-known ‘black ware’ from the Lavant Valley that gets its black coloration from reduction firing, making it particularly heat-resistant. The addition of graphite also yields a dark grey variant, which was, however, not suitable for use over an open fire. The wares had incised, carved, impressed and applied decoration. 

A gift from the godparents

A ‘Reindling’ is a typical Carinthian yeasted cake made on special occasions that in former times was baked in a shallow earthenware pan. At Easter godparents gave their godchildren a ‘Godenreindling’, a variation of this cake baked in a special mould decorated with various religious motifs. The moulded pan displayed here dates from 1796 and shows the Christogram IHS with the cross and a heart with three nails inscribed in a circle. The central motif is framed by a ten-pointed star.

Glass products for Europe

In the early eighteenth century new methods of production were introduced into glass-making. These were also used in Carinthia: glass carving, etching, innovations in founding and rolling as well as new techniques for hollow ware production all resulted in increasingly sophisticated products. At that time the glass-making centres were located in forested uplands, where the fuel and raw materials (quartz, clay) were close at hand without high transport costs. In Carinthia these centres included St Vinzenz on the Koralpe mountain and Tscherniheim south of Lake Weiss, from where high-quality glassware was exported all across Europe. The emergence of new industrial production methods in the nineteenth century spelled the end of glass-making in Carinthia.

Fire dogs and trivets

Cooking over an open fire led to various kinds of products made by blacksmiths: firedogs or andirons are raised brackets on which logs are laid for burning, thus improving the airflow. The ends are bent upwards, sometimes with hooks for attaching a spit, and often terminate in scrolling shapes. Four-legged forms were predominant in Central and southern Europe, while three-legged firedogs are found in western European regions.

Iron trivets were used as supports for pots and pans over an open hearth fire. Special trivets for long-handled pans have a projecting foot with a support for the handle.

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