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Circle of Jan van Kessel the Elder (Antwerp 1626-1679), Roses, a tulip, a small Morning Glory, jasmine, a red turban cup lily, rosemary and other flowers in a glass vase on a stone plinth, with a Scarce Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Blue and Small White butterflies, Lily Beetles, a Magpie Moth Caterpillar and Lake Demoiselle-fly in a niche, bears signature 'V.KES' (on plinth, lower left), oil on panel, 42.2 x 30.6cm (16 5/8 x 12 1/16in). Estimate £20,000 - 30,000 (€25,000 - 38,000). Photo Bonhams.

Literature: K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Dir Maler Jan van Kessel, Lingen, 2012, no. 503, p. 302, ill. (as Jan van Kessel)

The present painting is accompanied by a copy of a certificate of authenticity from Dr. Sam Segal (dated 10 August 1999) attributing it to Jan van Kessel, which is accompanied by a diagram identifying the various species of flowers and insects.

The flowers depicted here are characteristic of the horticultural varieties of the seventeenth century Netherlands, some being seen most notably from the third quarter of that century: such as the Provins Rose, the Small Morning Glory and the tulip. The 'Scarce Swallowtail' (or Koningspage) is a rare phenomenon in the Netherlands (including Flanders), as it was in England. The species was not indigenous there, reaching these countries only occasionally as a 'nomadic' species. It is largely absent from Netherlandish paintings from any period, but is known from one painting by Roelandt Savery from 1609 which was produced during his stay in Prague where this creature appears conspicuously in nature. Its inclusion is typical of such artists as Jan van Kessel's joy in depicting insects and butterflies in miniaturistic detail.

According to Dr. Segal, the present painting was, most likely, executed during the mid or later 1660s. A pair of pictures by Jan van Kessel the Elder of similar size, both dated 1660 (canvas, 40 x 31 cm., with Richard Green, London, 1971) show ten of the sixteen species depicted here and similarities in style, while several later works share a number of features. For example, striking similarities may be seen in several flowerpieces which include the foursquare glass bottle; and a pair of signed paintings in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Tournai (32.5 x 23.5 cm.) shows twelve species in common with the present composition. One of these shows the scarce Swallowtail on the niche floor, as well as many other species in common in similar positions, including a White Rose between two flowers of Provins Rose at the bottom and an identical tulip at the top, with rose petals on the niche floor. The most striking resemblance, however, may be found in a simpler composition in the Muzeul Brukenthal in Sibu, Romania (on panel, 38 x 26 cm.), again with a Scarce Swallowtail and many of the other species depicted here in similar positions.

Bonhams. OLD MASTER PAINTINGS. London, New Bond Street, 9 Jul 2014 - http://www.bonhams.com