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Lot 13. Jan Davidsz. De Heem (Utrecht 1606 - 1683/4 Antwerp), Still life  with peaches, figs, plums, grapes and oysters upon a wooden table top, bears initials upper left: C.D.H.f., and with traces of signature upper right, oil on oak panel, 21.7 by 27. 4 cm.; 8 1/2  by 10 3/4  in. Estimate 120,000 — 180,000 GBP. Unsold. Photo Sotheby's.

ProvenanceWilhelm Caspar Escher (1859–1929), Zürich;
Thence by family descent. 

Exhibited: Utrecht, Centraal Museum, Verborgen. Nederlandse en Vlamse schilderijn uit de 16de en 17de eeuw uit de collective W.C. Escher, 2002, no. 9;
Winterthur, Museum Oskar Reinhart, Oranje! Meisterwerke holländischer Malerei, 29 November 2014 – 5 April 2015, no. 31.

LiteratureR.E.O. Ekkart, in Verborgen. Nederlandse en Vlamse schilderijn uit de 16de en 17de eeuw uit de collective W.C. Escher, exhibition catalogue, Utrecht, Centraal Museum, 2002, pp. 64–65, 119, no. 9;
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Jan Davidsz. de Heem by Fred G. Meijer, currently in preparation.

Note: Apparently unrecorded and unpublished before its appearance in the 2002 Utrecht exhibition, this beautiful little still life is one of a group of similarly composed works painted by de Heem in the early 1650s. The closest compositional and stylistic parallels seem to be afforded by a number of signed paintings all dating from or close to the year 1651, some of similarly small dimensions. These include a Still life of fruit with a wine glass and shrimps in the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe,1 and the Still life with an overturned tazza, in the Prado in Madrid, in which the handling of the oysters is very comparable.2 Two other pictures formerly with Richard Green in London are also similar: a Still life with a fruit tart, again of 1651, and a signed but undated Still life with oysters, hazelnuts and fruit, previously in the collection of Dorothy Hart, Wych Cross, Sussex.We are grateful to Fred G. Meijer for proposing a date of execution of circa 1650–51 for the present work.

An almost literal but slightly larger copy of the present painting by the little-known Antwerp painter Thomas Mertens which was signed and dated 1666 was formerly in the collection of Henry H. Weldon in New York, and sold New York, Sotheby's, 22 April 2015, lot 11 (fig. 1). Another anonymous copy was sold London, Christie's, 12 December 2003, lot 84.

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Thomas Mertens (Active in Antwerpt circa 1666), Still life with fruit and oysters on a table, signed and dated upper right: Tho. mertens. fecit 1666., oil on panel, 9 1/2  by 13 5/8  in.; 24 by 34.5 cm, formerly in the collection of Henry H. Weldon. Sold for 43,750 USD at Sotheby's New York, 22 April 2015, lot 11© Sotheby's

Unusually, it is not known where and when Wilhelm Caspar Escher acquired this panel, but it is most likely that it was bought in the 1920s when he seems to have purchased many of his paintings.  

1 Canvas, 35.4 by 53.8 cm. See S. Segal in the exhibition catalogue, Jan Davidsz. de Heem und sein Kreis, Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, 1991, no. 13.

2 Inv. 2090, canvas, 49 by 64 cm. See M. Diaz Padrón, Museo del Prado. Catalogo de Pinturas. Escuela Flamenca Siglo XVII, Madrid 1975, vol. I, p. 154, no. 2090 and vol. II, p. 108, reproduced.

3 Panel, 24.3 by 34 cm. Sold London, Christie's, 10 December 1993, lot 12 (£220,000)

Sotheby's. Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale. 08 JULY 2015 | 7:00 PM BST - LONDON