Edward Collier and possibly Studio  (Breda circa 1640-circa 1706 London) A trompe l'oeil still life of a letter rack with letters, pamphlets,

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Lot 13*
Edward Collier and possibly Studio
(Breda circa 1640-circa 1706 London)
A trompe l'oeil still life of a letter rack with letters, pamphlets,

£ 20,000 - 30,000
US$ 27,000 - 41,000
Edward Collier and possibly Studio (Breda circa 1640-circa 1706 London)
A trompe l'oeil still life of a letter rack with letters, pamphlets, scissors, a quill pen, a wax seal and an oval miniature of King Charles I
inscribed 'for/Mr.P.R.idley/Painter att/London' (on letter, centre left)
oil on canvas
63.4 x 76.4cm (24 15/16 x 30 1/16in).

Footnotes

  • Collier moved to England in 1693 and thereafter started to paint what became his signature works: illusionistic representations of letter racks, in which painted letters along with combs, for example, sealing wax and dog-eared political pamphlets are tucked in behind painted strips of leather. Many of these are indeed literally signature works, since they include letters addressed to 'Mr E Collier, Painter at London'. Dror Wahrman, the author of Mr Collier's Letter Racks states that there are 14 'confirmed "Collier" paintings signed with the names of others that I have managed to track down'. While none of the artists whose 'signature' they bear are otherwise recorded, every one of these 14 works carry their respective 'signatures' in Collier's typical fashion, through the device of an addressed folded envelope. Wahrman suggests that Collier may also have had a hand in a whole range of other letter-rack paintings apparently signed by other artists, and which, he argues, have 'EC' monograms hidden in them. Wahrman notes that the lining up of the three dots from M. P. R. in the letter addressed to Mr. Ridley in the present work (see fig. 1) implies that they are intentional including the third; and yet the third does not make any sense and should not be there, which is precisely how Collier worked. He also tentatively suggests that 'if you look at the mirror image the side flourish on the left of the P is a cursive E, and the same flourish to the left of the R can be seen as a C.' Fred Meijer is also of the view that Collier had a hand in the present work.

    Similarly a Vanitas Still life with Works of Montaigne which is signed 'Charles Field' but which Dror Wahrman persuasively argues was painted by Edward Collier is one of four nearly identical paintings that Collier almost certainly had more than a hand in: one with Collier's signature, one without signature, and two with signatures ascribed to others, although all four paintings have Collier's initials ('E.C.') inscribed within them.

    Wahrman writes that Collier began to paint letter racks as a result of coming to England and being exposed to the newly frantic and ephemeral world of late 17th century pamphleteering. This series of paintings can thus be seen as depicting the transience of an age in which kings and queens and pamphlets come and go, but all is finally vanity.
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