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Lot 213. Jan Frans van Dael (Antwerp 1764 - 1840 Paris), Still life with fritillaria imperialis, roses and tulips in a stone vase, on a red marble ledge, signed and dated lower left: Van dael / Can 3 ème, oil on canvas, 73.5 x 60 cm.; 28 7/8 x 23 5/8 in. Estimate 60,000 — 80,000 GBP. Lot sold 75,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's. 

Provenance: Baron Eugène Fould-Springer (d. 1929) and his wife Marie-Cecile (d. 1978), Palais Abbatial de Royaumont, Asnières-sur-Oise, France;
Thence by family descent until sold, Paris, Christie's, 19 September 2011, lot 48.  

Notes: Jan Frans van Dael was one of the most highly regarded painters of flowers and fruit in Paris during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He turned to still-life painting after training as an architect in his native Antwerp and moving to Paris in 1786 as a decorative painter, in which capacity he gained important commissions at the chateaux of Saint-Cloud, Bellevue and Chantilly, among others. In 1793 Van Dael acquired lodgings in the Louvre and came under the guidance of his fellow countryman, Gerard van Spaendonck (1746–1822), the leading still-life painter of the time, whose influence inspired Van Dael to specialise in the genre for the rest of his career. The popularity of his work is attested to by the commissions he secured from patrons as important and influential as the Empresses Josephine and Marie-Louise Bonaparte, and the Restoration kings Louis XVIII and Charles X. When he died in 1840, Van Dael was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery next to van Spaendonck.

The present work is one of Van Dael’s earliest. Its date ‘3 ème’ refers to the third year of the French Revolutionary calendar, which ran from 22 September 1794 to 22 September 1795. The rather dark background is characteristic of his early compositions, illuminated by a bright but soft light, which allows for the meticulous articulation of every intricate detail and assorted texture, as well as the convincing impression of depth and substance. The style here is highly refined and the colours jewel-like, reflecting both Van Dael’s fidelity to the Flemish and Dutch tradition and the grand context of turn-of-the-century France. Indeed, Van Dael collected the flower paintings of both his contemporaries and 17th-century masters, such as Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Abraham Mignon and Rachel Ruysch. Although he was clearly inspired by the rich compositions and luxurious motifs of Van Spaendonck’s works, the present painting is evidence of Van Dael’s originality of invention. The plant in the lower right corner, apparently growing from an unseen source in front of the marble ledge, would seem to be a unique device.

This painting was formerly in the collection of the banker Baron Eugène Fould-Springer and his wife Marie-Cecil, daughter of the industrialist Baron Gustav Springer. Their house – the Palais Abbatial de Royaumont at Asnières-sur-Oise, near Chantilly, formerly a 13th-century Cistercian abbey, transformed into a neoclassical building in 1784 – and their collection, were protected from the Nazis during the Second World War by the couple’s son-in-law, the Spanish diplomat Eduardo Propper de Callejón who, by declaring it to be his main residence, gave it diplomatic immunity. Propper de Callejón is mainly remembered for facilitating the escape of thousands of Jews from occupied France at this time. 

Sotheby's. Old Masters Day Sale, London, 07 Jul 2016