Von Franken, a genre and landscape painter, was born in 1819 in Oberbachem near Godesberg. His family had used the aristocratic name ‘von Franken’ illegitimately since 1826, and despite a Cologne judge banning the use of this title, Paul von Franken continued to sign documents and paintings with this dignified suffix. He trained at the Dusseldorf Academy of Arts, and spent the period from 1842 to 1845 in Brussels and Antwerp, and exhibited at the Dresden Academy in 1846. Later he worked as a teacher, and met his Latvian wife Helene Korber. The couple lived for a year in her hometown of Jelgava (Mitau), and then moved to Tbilisi in 1853 travelling through St. Petersburg and Moscow on the way. Though Franken returned to work in Dusseldorf eight years later in 1861, he frequently returned to Tbilisi and the Caucasus to paint and draw, taking inspiration from Georgia back to his studio in Germany.
Although Franken produced many paintings in 1884, the year of his death, many are believed to have been completed by Helene Korber at a later date. After his death, his wife took all of the Caucasian paintings completed by Franken back to Tbilisi to be distributed amongst the wider family, where many still remain today.