Frans Francken the Younger
In Antwerp during the1500-1600s, there existed a family of extremely popular and skilled artists, named the Franckens. The family custom of those times was to name a child in each generation after their father, in order to continue the family legacy through the names. In the case of the Franckens, who consisted of three generations of famous artists, the names Ambrosius, Frans and Hieronymous were most common. There had been much difficulty in connecting the paintings with the artists, especially when both father and son would sign their paintings with the same name.
For example, when the first Frans Francken’s son started to sign his name on paintings, Frans Francken changed his signature to Frans Francken the Elder and his son to Frans Francken the Younger. When Frans Francken the Elder passed away in 1616, Frans Francken the Younger just signed his works with F. Francken. This worked until Frans Francken (the Younger)’s son, who was also a Frans, grew up and needed to sign his own paintings. At that time Frans Francken the Younger took his father’s signature, which was Frans Francken the Elder, and gave his son his previous signature of Frans Francken the Younger. It’s not too confusing, when you think about it, but when the artists had all learned from each other and painted very similarly, it caused art collectors to wonder, “Who was who?”
Well, this particular Frans Francken the Younger, who was born in 1581, was the third son of Frans Francken I. He was a Flemish Baroque artist. He became the most recognized member of the family, even among his other relatives, the Ambrosius’ and the Hieronymous’, who were also artists who excelled in their craft. He signed his works with Frans Francken the Younger until 1616, returned to signing it simply as Frans Francken until 1630, when he began signing his name as Frans Francken the Elder. He was very creative and came up with new themes that caught on with the other Flemish painters, for instance, he began painting monkeys in his genre scenes, as well as Kunstkamer themes which were neutral colored walls with backdrops of treasures, both natural and manmade.
He joined the painters guild in 1605, and at one point was made the dean of the guild. During his career he often assisted other artists such as Abraham Govaerts and Tobias Verhaecht by painting in figures for them on their works. Mostly he painted small pieces, the size of cabinet paintings, and these were quite popular and numerous. Such works as by Frans Francken the Younger were found in many European collections, then and now. It’s in his smaller pieces that the struggle between traditional Flemish styles and more modern ideas by Rubens could be seen. It wasn’t until much later in his life that he turned to producing large altarpieces.
Just a few of Frans Francken the Younger’s works listed here are the Adoration of the Virgin, which he completed in 1616; Woman Taken in Adultery, made in 1628; Seven Works of Charity, in 1630; and the Prodigal Son, finished in 1633. These were signed Frans Francken the Younger, F. Francken, and Frans Francken the Elder, according to the year he signed them. These works can be found at the Louvre, and in galleries in Amsterdam, Munich and in Dresden. His many other paintings have been preserved and can be found at several other museums in Europe.