Flemish painting and De Jonckheere Gallery's old master paintings
De Jonckheere Gallery ;
A great specialist in vanities and decorative still lifes evoking the passing of time, Edwaert Collier shows us a more unknown side of...read more
De Jonckheere Gallery ;
A great specialist in vanities and decorative still lifes evoking the passing of time, Edwaert Collier shows us a more unknown side of his art with this Still life with a bowl of citrus fruit and a fob watch on an oriental rug, a synthesis between the monochrome still life from the Haarlem school of the 1660s and the luminous decorative ensembles he painted during the second half of his career.
The artist’s taste for precious fabrics and luxury objects is expressed here in a composition that is both sober and sumptuous. The dark, neutral background is simply decorated with a thick curtain with vaguely painted folds. This sketch-like quality naturally reinforces the presence of the elements that form the painting’s foreground. Meticulously painted, they are astonishingly realistic. The pyramidal composition of the ensemble begins at a corner of the table covered with a magnificent oriental rug. It was still common to cover a table with an oriental rug in the Netherlands until very recently. Arriving in the northern and Italian ports in the cargos of merchants from the Bosphorus, these rugs were luxury items sold at a high price. The floral and geometric details seen here add an exotic touch to a sparse setting, and the ochre and brown tones echo the citrus fruit arranged in a china bowl. Three lemons and an orange lie in this Delftware dish. The realism of their peel is indeed of a rare quality: the lemons’ callosities as well as the orange’s rough surface demonstrate the painter’s skill at rendering such materials. This technical quality is also visible in the portrayal of the rug whose clearly-visible weft makes the viewer want to reach out and feel the softness of the wool: in this sense, this painting is a perfect dupery.
Next to the bowl of citrus fruit is a key element of Dutch still life: the pewter plate. This magnificently polished recipient, as shiny as silver, is an important plastic element that every painter included to prove his talent. Serving as a mirror, the plate reflects the china as well as the warm colours of the orange. A knife, delicately placed on this plate, jumps out at the viewer from the canvas. This common process was established in the first still lifes to sublimate the trompe-l’oeil effect so sought after by art-lovers of the time.
But a still life would not be complete without the presence of a glass. As a means to highlight an artist's skill, the glass presents great difficulties owing to the very nature of the material: transparent yet visible at the same time! The drinking glass, a key object in Rhenish art, requires a perfect mastery of the glaze technique. It can be found in several examples depicting rich tables, especially those in the Hyde Collection in New York . But glass is also to be found on the remarkable silver watch that occupies the bottom left-hand corner of the table. Besides the fact that it is valuable, the pocket watch symbolises the passing of time and the ephemeral nature of our existence . The small key that is used to wind up the mechanism delicately hangs in space, and this astonishingly realistic detail is surprising to any viewer. The extreme refinement of this piece of jewellery demonstrates this artist's talent, marked by vanity painting, which was very much in fashion at the time in Leiden. However, it is Edwaert Collier’s refusal of austerity by cleverly mixing luxury and sobriety that makes all the difference. Of an undeniable aesthetic quality, this amazing still life is totally unique in this painter’s body of work. It is certain that the exceptional talent of this great trompe-l’oeil master and the rare subject of a painting that features a fob watch, will delight the most exacting still life collectors.
Breda c. 1640 - London 1708
We do not know Edwaert Collier’s exact date of birth. Born in Breda, the first documents state his presence in Haarlem, probably for his training. He then settled...read more
Breda c. 1640 - London 1708
We do not know Edwaert Collier’s exact date of birth. Born in Breda, the first documents state his presence in Haarlem, probably for his training. He then settled in Leiden in 1667. He married four times and became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1673. He arrived in London in 1693 where he stayed during the final years of his life. He was cremated there in September 1708.
The cradle of Calvinism and the intellectual society that gravitated around its famous university, Leiden became the Dutch centre for the type of still life known as “vanitas”. This type of highly codified portrayal, whose origins date back to the 15th century, was inaugurated in Leiden (after a long period of oblivion) by D. Bailly, who used a model by his master, Jacob de Gheyn.
A veritable vogue for this type of portrayal gripped the northern part of the Netherlands, coinciding with the study of the possibilities monochromaticity offered painting.
His vanities, as well as those by J. Vermeulen and Pieter Potter, depict the symbols of the futility of terrestrial life through descriptions of books (especially open books, the texts of which he meticulously copied) and nautical, musical and measuring instruments. A relatively limited number of objects, painted with strong contrasts of light and shade, are organised around a guiding line in discreet colours ranging from brown to grey, enlivened by several more colourful touches. His self-portrait of 1684, which can be considered a vanity, shows the influence of Bailly. This versatile character left behind a large number of vanities, portraits and genre paintings; he was known for his trompe-l'oeil.