FRANCKEN, Frans II
(b. 1581, Antwerpen, d. 1642, Antwerpen)
Francken, family of Flemish painters active during five generations in the 16th and 17th centuries, mainly in Antwerp, although several of them were also active in France. 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. From the second generation Hieronymus I and Ambrosius I can be mentioned who adopted Marteen de Vos's Mannerism of Venetian origin. The sons of Frans Francken II followed in their father's footsteps, but were weaker artists: Frans Francken III, the best of the youngest generation; Hieronymus Francken III, who specialized in religious subjects; and Ambrosius Francken III c. 1614;-1662).
The fact that the same Christian names occurred in three generations of painters who used identical signatures has caused a great deal of confusion in attributing their various works. It is still not possible to distinguish between all members of the family reliably, as signed and dated works are not available for some of the family members.
Of all the members of the Francken family, Frans II is the most important and still the most widely known. He frequently adopted his father's subjects and style, but his range was wider. He painted landscapes and genre scenes as well as historical pictures, and was also one of the first artists to use the interior of a picture gallery as a subject, giving faithful miniature reproductions of the works in the collection. His paintings were even smaller and more crowded than his father's; they were also more colourful. Frans II was frequently employed by his fellow artists in Antwerp to paint the figures in their landscapes and interiors.
There are paintings by Frans II in all large public collections in Europe. Besides altarpieces and painted furniture panels, he produced mainly small cabinet pictures with historical, mythological or allegorical themes. Frans II's rank as an artist is not so much derived from his extensive output as from his innovative subject-matter: his depictions of luxuriously decorated Kunstkammern and art galleries influenced Jan Breughel the Elder, Rubens and David Teniers the Younger, while his early paintings of 'monkeys' kitchens' (allegorical scenes of human vice, such as smoking and gluttony, enacted by monkeys) set the direction for Jan van Kessel and Teniers.