02 janvier 2023

Juan van der Hamen y León, Still life with a basket of fruit with two plates of fruit and birds, all on a stone ledge

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 Lot 27. Juan van der Hamen y León (Antwerp 1582 - 1647), Still life with a basket of fruit with two plates of fruit and birds, all on a stone ledge, signed and dated lower left: Juo Vander hamen fat./ .1622 a.os, oil on canvas, 57.6 x 100.3 cm. Lot sold: 277,200 GBP (Estimate: 300,000 - 500,000 GBP). © 2022 Sotheby's. 

Property from the Grasset Collection.

Provenance: Anonymous sale ('The Property of a Gentleman'), London, Sotheby's, 13 December 1978, lot 101, for £32,000 (sold as a pair with Still life of fruit and cakes then in the same collection);
Private collection, Paris;
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 14 January 1994, lot 60, for $450,000;
Where acquired for the Grasset Collection.

Literature: W.B. Jordan, Spanish Still Life in the Golden Age 1600–1650, exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1985, pp. 107 and 109, reproduced p. 109, fig. VI.8;
W.B. Jordan and P. Cherry, Spanish Still Life from Velázquez to Goya, exh. cat., National Gallery, London, 1995, p. 49, reproduced fig. 35;
W.B. Jordan, Juan van der Hamen y León and the Court of Madrid, exh. cat., Madrid and Dallas 2005–06, New Haven and London 2005, pp. 103 and 106, reproduced in colour fig. 6.30;
F.G. Meijer, Brueghel to Canaletto, European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection, exh. cat., San Diego 2016, p. 34, no. 30, reproduced in colour and on p. 33 (detail);
S. Thomas, A Feast for the Eyes, European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection, exh. cat., Saint Petersburg, Florida 2019, pp. 54 and 98, no. 21, reproduced in colour p. 55.

ExhibitedSan Diego, The San Diego Museum of Art, Brueghel to Canaletto, European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection, 2 April – 2 August 2016, no. 30;
San Diego, The San Diego Museum of Art, on loan 2016–19 (when part of the Genre & Myth display, 2017–19);
Saint Petersburg, Florida, Museum of Fine Arts, A Feast for the Eyes, European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection, 23 March – 2 September 2019, no. 21.

NoteSigned and dated 1622, this is a particularly grand example of Juan van der Hamen’s innovative work as a still-life painter. Among the most celebrated artists at the Spanish court in early seventeenth-century Madrid, Van der Hamen was this new genre’s most important proponent, specializing in imaginative, balanced and keenly observed compositions. A near contemporary of Velázquez, he was also an admirable portraitist and a painter of religious and allegorical subjects; yet despite his wide-ranging subject matter it is for his still lifes that he is best remembered today.

In contrast to the stepped-plinth compositions that Van der Hamen developed from 1626, when his arrangements of such surfaces become increasingly complex, in the early 1620s he favoured a compositional type with a single ledge, as exemplified here. This approach was to have a profound effect on later Spanish still-life painting, notably in the work of Zurbarán. Here birds alight on a basket of plums, apples, grapes and pears; on the ledge two more birds peck at grapes, an allusion to the story of the classical painter Zeuxis, who painted grapes so naturalistically that they fooled the birds that were drawn to them. A plate of candied cherries on the left is balanced on the right with a dish of glossy olives; above, to one side, is a cluster of fruits, each one hanging by a thread, while a bunch of grapes is suspended on the other side. In its ordered and symmetrical composition and dark background, this painting follows the example of Van der Hamen's predecessor Juan Sánchez Cotán (1560–1627), celebrated for his sparse arrangements of objects in window frame formats; while the basket of fruit and birds reveals the influence of contemporary Flemish still lifes by Frans Snyders (1579–1657) then in Spanish collections.

Responding imaginatively to the taste for Flemish art in Madrid, Van der Hamen painted the same arrangement of fruit as here – albeit in a porcelain bowl rather than a wicker basket – in a work on panel of 1621 preserved at the Escorial and then at the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, Madrid.1 The composition was an adaptation of a fruit still life by Frans Snyders in the Spanish royal collection. William B. Jordan described the transformation of this motif as a change of reference from a Flemish to Castilian one, for the basket is of distinctly Spanish character. Demand for Van der Hamen's still lifes was such that he kept a repertory of motifs that he reused in different pictures. The basket and grapes depicted here was clearly a favourite and is very similar to that in a still life sold at Christie's New York on 29 January 1998, lot 118 for $600,000.

1 54.5 x 69.3 cm.; Patrimonio Nacional 10014637; reproduced in colour in New Haven and London 2005, p. 104, pl. 13.

Sotheby's. Old Masters Evening Auction, London, 7 December 2022

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