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A still life of flowers in a terracotta vase upon a marble ledge before a niche
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About the item

This picture and the following lot are superb examples by one of the greatest of all still-life painters.  The paintings have hung as pendants since the late 19th century, in the Rothschild and subsequently in the Fattorini collections.  Before then, this picture enjoyed an unusually distinguished provenance, having belonged to Gerrit Braamcamp and Jan (Jansz.) Gildemeester in Amsterdam, George Watson Taylor in London and subsequently King Willem II of the Netherlands.  This picture and its companion have not appeared on the open market for more than 120 years.\nVan Huysum was born in Amsterdam, the son of Justus (I) van Huysum, a painter who ran a commercial workshop in which Jan and his brothers, Justus (II) and Jacob, were also employed.  His reputation grew markedly following the death of his father in 1716 and within a few years Houbraken himself was lavishing praise upon him (see A. Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, Amsterdam, 1718 - 21, vol. III, p. 278).  By 1734, when this picture was painted, Van Huysum was well established as the foremost flower painter of his day.  His patrons were drawn not only from the wealthy merchant classes of his native Amsterdam but also from the Royal houses of Europe: the Duc d'Orléans, the Prince of Hesse-Kassel, the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and the King of Prussia all purchased pictures directly from the artist.\nThe enormous demand for his pictures was partly due to the stunning realism with which Van Huysum was able to render individual blooms, leaves and fruit as well as more incidental details such as insects and water droplets. It was more than technical brilliance of execution, however, that led to the artist's extraordinary success. His exuberant baroque compositions were innovative in the adoption of lighter backgrounds and the frequent placing of the still-life elements in landscape settings, bathed in sunlight.  In contrast to still-lifes produced in the Low Countries in the previous century, where flowers and fruit were usually presented before a sombre backdrop, Van Husyum's brighter, refined compositions found especial favour in an age governed by the new sensibilities that were to characterise the rococo period.  Van Huysum's earlier works, painted before circa 1720, had been composed in a more traditional fashion and the art critic and friend of the painter, Lambert ten Kate, is generally credited with having acted as the spur to his adoption of a more modern style. '[Van Huysum] painted his flowers and fruit for many years on dark back-grounds, against which, in his opinion they came out more and were better articulated.  Everyone praised these pieces as wonderful, as impossible to surpass; then our Ten Kate candidly expressed an opposite opinion. He recommended that the backgrounds be kept light, precisely in order to give the  fruit and flowers in front of them a better effect.  Eventually Van Huysum yielded to his friend's repeated advice; and it was entirely due to the feeling and recommendation of Ten Kate that he completely changed his manner from then onward, and saw the value of his pieces climb as a result from a hundred or two hundred guilders to a thousand, yes, to five thousand guilders' (see R. van Eijnden & A. van der Willigen, Geschiedenis der Vaderlandsche Schilderkunst, Haarlem 1816, vol. I, pp. 312 -313, as translated by P. Taylor, Dutch Flower Painting 1600-1720, New Haven/London 1995, p. 191).\nApproximately 250 still lifes by Van Huysum are known today, the vast majority of which are in permanent collections.  His works are characterised by a consistently high level of quality, which is a result of the artist's practice of working entirely on his own.  Only once and briefly did he take on a pupil, Margareta Haverman, who left to pursue a successful career in Paris.  Indeed, Van Huysum gained a reputation for secrecy, refusing anyone admission to his workshop lest they should see how he prepared his pigments or learn what techniques he used to produce his pictures. Although little is therefore known of his modus operandi it is evident that he insisted on using live models - rather than simply drawings - when painting his pictures as he once famously wrote to the Duke of Mecklenburg explaining that the completion of a commission for a flower still life had been delayed as he had been unable to find a yellow rose that year (letter dated 17 July 1742, published by Fr. Schlie (ed.), "Sieben Briefe und eine Quittung von Jan van Huijsum", in Oud Holland, vol. 18, 1900, p. 141).  This working practice whereby paintings would lie partially complete until the next Spring or Summer supplied the relevant missing blooms explains the fact that a significant number of his pictures are dated twice, one year apart (see, for example, his Flowers in a Terracotta Vase in the National Gallery, London, inv. no. 796, which is dated 1736 and 1737).\nIn the Fattorini picture, the artist places the still life before a niche, using a device which had been popular in the Low Countries since the early 17th century; see, for example, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder's Flower Piece, dated 1618, in Copenhagen, Museum for Schone Kunsten (reproduced in Taylor, op. cit.,  p. 117).  The light, variegated tones that Van Huysum employs for the niche and the brilliance and visual impact of the apparently sun-lit flowers provide, however, a marked contrast to such earlier Netherlandish prototypes.\nThis picture remained in the possession of the artist until his death and seems to have served as a model for at least one other work: a close variant, signed but not dated, including three tulips to the left, omitting the wallflower to the right and with a different bird's nest,  in Schwerin, Staatliches museum (see Grant, Literature, no. 31) which was bought directly from the artist by an agent on behalf of the Duke of Mecklenburg before 1740.\nThis painting was purchased from the artist's Estate by Gerrit Braamcamp and soon became one of the most admired pictures in his renowned collection.  Madame de Bocage, who visited him in his home, the 'Trippenhuis', in Amsterdam described her visit in a letter dated 30 June 1750, ' ...dignèrent sacrificier un de leurs moments à nous montrer le cabinet de M. Brankam [sic], riche en tableaux Flamands, possesseur du plus beau morceau de Wanussem [sic] (Excellent Peintre de fleurs) que j'aye vu...' (see Bille, Literature, vol. I, p. 61). Later, the Markgravin Caroline Louise von Baden, who visited his collection, made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the painting ('à la branch dorange') though her Paris envoy, M. Eberts (Gräfliches Archiv in Langenstein, Correspondence C.L. Margrave de Bade, vol. XXIII, 41, 15 September 1763; quoted by Bille, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 39, 64).  The collection of Jan (Jansz.) Gildemeester, which the painting subsequently entered, was no less distinguished and was particularly rich in 17th Century Dutch cabinet pictures but also included Van Huysum's Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, now in the National Gallery, London (inv. no. 796).\nThis painting has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition on Van Huysum due to take place in 2005 in Houston and Delft.\nWe are grateful to Sam Segal for providing us with information regarding the early provenance and publication history of this painting and to Michael Hall for his assistance in clarifying the Rothschild provenance.\nSigned and dated lower left: Jan Van Huijsum/ fecit 1734
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medium

Oil on panel

creator

Jan van Huysum

dimensions

81 by 60.6 cm.; 31 7/8 by 23 7/8 in.

exhibition

London, British Institution, 1818, no. 142; Liverpool, Dutch Old Masters, 1944, no. 7; Arts Council, 1945, no. 14; London, Royal Academy, Dutch Pictures, 1952-53, no. 499; York, City Art Gallery, on loan, 1989 - 2003.

literature

Probably G. Hoet, Catalogus of Naamlyst van schilderyen, The Hague 1752, vol. 2, pp. 269, 503; J.A. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné..., vol. VI, London 1835, p. 467, no. 15 ; C.J. Nieuwenhuys, Description de la Collection...[du] Prince d'Orange, 1837, pp. 92-93; C. Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches verzeichnis der werke der hervorragendsten Holländischen maler..., vol. X, Stuttgart/Paris 1928, p. 358, no. 93; Colonel M.H. Grant, Jan van Huysum 1682-1749, Leigh-on-Sea 1954, p. 31, cat. no. 212, reproduced in colour plate 10; C. Bille, De tempel der kunst of het kabinet van den Heer Braamcamp, Amsterdam 1961, vol. I, pp. 39, 61, 64, vol. II, pp. 23 - 23a, no. 91, illustrated; E. Hinterding and F. Horsch, " 'A small but choice collection': the art gallery of King Willem II of the Netherlands", in Simiolus19, no. 1/2, 1989, p. 10; E. Hinterding and F. Horsch, "Reconstruction of the collection of old master paintings of King Willem II", in Simiolus 19,  no. 1/2 , 1989, p. 89, no. 100, illustrated; N. MacLaren, revised C. Brown, National Gallery Catalogues. The Dutch School 1600 - 1900, London 1991, vol. I, p. 209, under no. 796, note 4; E. Bénézit, Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres..., Paris 1999, vol. 7, p. 300.

provenance

In the artist's possession until his death; Sale ('Johan Diedrik Pompe van der Meerdervoort, Burgemeester te Dordrecht; en van den beroemden Bloemschilder Jan van Huyzum'), Amsterdam, 14 October 1749, lot 9 f 1215-0 to Gerrit Braamcamp (1699 - 1771), Amsterdam (with the dealer La Salle in 1766); His sale, Amsterdam, 31 July 1771, lot 91f 4,100.-, to Jan (Jansz.) Gildemeester (1744 - 1799), Amsterdam, His sale, Amsterdam, 11 June 1800, lot 87, f 1,950 to Oudekerk de Vries; George Watson Taylor (1771 - 1841), London, by 1818, His sale, London, Christie's, 13 June 1823, lot 62, £262.10.10 to Down; With C.J. Nieuwenhuys, 15 September 1823, bought for f. 5,000; King Willem II of The Netherlands (1792 - 1849), His (deceased) sale, The Hague, 2 August 1850, lot 100, under reserve f 3,000 to C.J. Nieuwenhuys; Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), by 1878; Thence by inheritance to his widow, Charlotte, Baroness Lionel de Rothschild (1819 - 1884), Gunnersbury Park, Middlesex; Thence by descent to her son, Leopold de Rothschild (1845 - 1917); Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942), Exbury, Hampshire ; Edmund de Rothschild (b. 1916), from whom acquired by Tancred Borenius, 15 April 1942; John Enrico Fattorini (1878-1949); Mary Fattorini (1909-2000).

signedDate

Signed and dated lower left: Jan Van Huijsum/ fecit 1734

consignmentDesignation

Property from the Estate of the Late Mary Fattorini

creator_nationality_dates

Amsterdam 1682 - 1749


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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