Head of Sale
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Head of Sale
Private Collection, USA, since at least the early 1950s
The present work is related to a group of trompe l'oeil still life paintings of bound illuminated books that are believed to have been painted in south Germany or Austria in the mid-16th century; other known versions are similar in size to the present work and all are painted on pine. They have in common the inclusion of 11 illuminated initials and two passages of music notation but the details and colouring vary slightly between them. Another version of this composition was offered at Christie's, New York, 11 January 1979, lot 248 (see: Die Maler tom Ring, WestfälischenLandesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster, exh. cat., September - November 1996, vol II, no. 88).
The motif of an open book can be seen in intarsie as early as the 15th century such as those in the Studiolo of Federico di Montefeltro in Urbino. A painting in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (inv. no. 2469) showing a still life of books, water jug and basin of circa 1470-80 probably offers the most likely explanation for the subject. It is painted on the reverse of a devotional painting of the Virgin and is thought to represent her purity (the washing utensils) and her piety (the open book). So whilst the present work seems to anticipate the genre of still life painting, its real purpose would more likely have been to encourage the viewer to devotional contemplation.