Jan van Kessel the Elder (Antwerp 1626-1679) A still life of tulips, a crown imperial, irises, roses and other flowers in a glass vase with a lizard, butterflies, a dragonfly and other insects
Lot 79
Jan van Kessel the Elder (Antwerp 1626-1679) A still life of tulips, a crown imperial, snowdrops, lilies, irises, roses and other flowers in a glass vase with a lizard, butterflies, a dragonfly and other insects
£800,000 - 1.2 million
US$ 1.2 million - 1.9 million

Lot Details
Jan van Kessel the Elder (Antwerp 1626-1679)
A still life of tulips, a crown imperial, snowdrops, lilies, irises, roses and other flowers in a glass vase with a lizard, butterflies, a dragonfly and other insects
signed and dated 'J v Kessel fecit/1652' (lower right)
oil on copper
78.7 x 60.5cm (31 x 23 13/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Count de Villalcazar de Sirga and thence by descent to the
    present owner

    LITERATURE:
    Don A. Ponz, Viage de España, en que se da noticia de las
    cosas mas apreciables, y dignas de saberse, que hay en ella

    (Madrid, 1794), vol. XVIII, pp. 235-236
    M-L. Hairs, Les Peintres flamands des Fleurs au XVIIe siècle
    (Brussels, 1985), p. 296

    The compositions of the present painting and the following lot belong to an original series of paintings executed around 1652. It is believed from a set of engravings that once belonged to the owner's family that there were sixteen flower still lifes painted in eight different vases. The present and following panel appear to be the largest of this series which otherwise range in size from 76 x 59 cm. to 77.5 x 60 cm. The series includes five 'pairs' of identical vases/glasses and pedestals/tables (like these) and one (that probably lost its pendant) in a plain porcelain vase. These paintings exceed in scale and ambition anything else that the artist ever attempted. Two of these paintings from the same collection were sold in these rooms on the 14 December, 1999: lot 77, A still life of flowers in a blue and white porcelain vase (sold for £749, 500) and lot 78, A still life of flowers in a roemer on a stone pedestal (sold for £639,500). Lot 77 appears to have been a pendant to a similar composition, signed and dated 1652, of almost identical dimensions and painted on copper in the Heinz family collection (see I. Bergstrom in the catalogue of the exhibition, Still Life of the Golden Age, Northern European Paintings from the Heinz family collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 14 May - 13 Dec, 1989, cat. no. 21, p. ill. 112). Four other paintings from the series are also illustrated (see I. Bergstrom, op. cit., p. 113, figs. 2,3,4). Two further examples of these paintings were sold at Christie's, New York, 31 May 1991: lot 86, Flowers in a glass vase with a caterpillar and a beetle on a ledge (sold for $495,000) and lot 87, Flowers in a Chinese Transitional blue and white jardinière (sold after the sale).

    Records show that the paintings of this series were all originally in a Spanish private collection. Bergstrom argued that 'although we do not know what van Kessel the Elder painted for Philip IV, it is tempting to assign the series of eight [sic] monumental flower pieces on solid copper plates, which surpass in size by far his pictures of bouquets to that circumstance. The number and size of these pictures leads one to believe that they were commissioned by an important patron' (Bergstrom, loc. cit., p. 113). Although Jan van Kessel the Younger is recorded as staying in Madrid, where he became court painter to Philip IV, it is not recorded that Jan van Kessel the Elder travelled to Spain. It appears, however, that this series formed a commission for a major Spanish collector. A tradition of Flemish painting in Spain was firmly established by the mid-seventeenth century which stemmed from the strong links between Flanders and Spain encouraged by the Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella, daughter of Philip II of Spain. Bergstrom speculated that van Kessel was introduced to Philip IV by Daniel Seghers, his Antwerp contemporary and we know that Seghers had important Spanish patrons from his remaining inventories.
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