FRANCKEN, Ambrosius I
(b. ca. 1544, Herentals, d. 1618, Antwerpen)


Francken, family of Flemish painters active during five generations in the 16th and 17th centuries, mainly in Antwerp. The individual contributions of the many artists in the family are often difficult to assess, but the two most distinguished members were Frans I and his son Frans II (1581-1642). From the second generation Hieronymus I and Ambrosius I can be mentioned who adopted Marten de Vos's Mannerism of Venetian origin.

Ambrosius Francken I was a painter and draughtsman, brother of Hieronymus Francken I. In 1569 he was in the service of the Bishop of Tournai, then in 1570 he is recorded at Fontainebleau, where he may have had the chance to study the works of Rosso Fiorentino and Francesco Primaticcio. By 1573–74 Ambrosius I was back in Antwerp, and at about that time he became a master in the Guild of St Luke; he was appointed an associate deacon of the guild in 1581 and a deacon in 1582.

Between 1594 and 1605 he employed four apprentices. Such large altarpieces as the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (1598) for Antwerp Cathedral, the Martyrdom of St Jacob (1608) for the St Jacobskerk and the Last Supper for the St Joriskerk in Antwerp (all Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) are stiffly composed of rather muscular figures based on Classical prototypes. The artist's debt to Marten de Vos can be seen in the opulently draped robes and other details. These huge altarpieces influenced ecclesiastical taste, and Ambrosius I's many surviving works attest to his popularity in his own day; he had a considerable impact on his contemporaries.