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Lot 27. Jan van Kessel (Antwerp 1626 - 1679), Still life of tulips, roses, poppy anemones and an iris in a glass vase, signed lower right: J: V. kessel. fecit., oil on panel (including vertical additions of 2 cm. on the left and right margins), 52 x 36 cm. Lot sold: 453,600 GBP (Estimate: 120,000 - 180,000 GBP). © 2022 Sotheby's. 

Property from the Grasset Collection.

Provenance: With Gebr. Douwes, Amsterdam, 1955;
With A. Staal, Amsterdam;
Dr. Hans Wetzlar (d. 1977), Amsterdam;
Anonymous sale, Geneva, Galerie Pierre-Yves Gabus S.A., Hôtel des Bergues, 18–20 November 1985 (catalogue untraced; advertised in Connoisseur, October 1985, p. 164, and Die Weltkunst, 1 October 1985, p. 3081);
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 11 December 1985, lot 51, for £50,000;
Where acquired for the Grasset Collection.

Literature: M.L. Hairs, Les peintres flamands de fleurs au XVII siècle, Paris and Brussels 1955, unpaginated, reproduced fig. 47;
K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Die Maler Jan van Kessel. Jan van Kessel der Ältere 1626–1679, Jan van Kessel der Jüngere 1654–1708, Jan van Kessel der 'Andere' ca. 1620 – ca. 1621, Lingen 2012, p. 299, no. 496, reproduced;
F.G. Meijer, Brueghel to Canaletto, European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection, exh. cat., San Diego 2016, p. 16, no. 11, reproduced in colour;
S. Thomas, A Feast for the Eyes, European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection, exh. cat., Saint Petersburg, Florida 2019, pp. 66–67 and 99, no. 28, reproduced in colour.

Exhibited: Amsterdam, Gebr. Douwes, Jubileumtentoonstelling, June – September 1955, no. 33;
San Diego, The San Diego Museum of Art, Brueghel to Canaletto, European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection, 2 April – 2 August 2016, no. 11;
Saint Petersburg, Florida, Museum of Fine Arts, A Feast for the Eyes, European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection, 23 March – 2 September 2019, no. 28.

NoteDated by Klaus Ertz to around 1660, this signed floral still life is an example of Jan van Kessel at the height of his career. Executed with the artist's characteristic palette and rich clear colouring, the work represents a high point in Flemish floral still-life painting, which only first came into being roughly half a century earlier.

Although known as one of the most versatile Flemish still-life painters, Van Kessel's work as a flower painter was singled out when he was accepted as a master in the Antwerp guild in around 1645. His still lifes are partly indebted to those produced by his grandfather Jan Brueghel the Elder and his uncle Jan Breughel the Younger, although these influences never came at the cost of his own particular style and method. The most significant set of Van Kessel's paintings in this genre is perhaps a set of eight copper panels dated 1652, with their Spanish provenance a sign of the demand for the artist's works across the continent.1

The beautifully observed flowers in this vase include tulips, roses and poppy anemones. Finally, the bouquet is crowned by an iris, its blue hues contrasting with the dominance of pinks, reds and purples in the ensemble. Also contained within the arrangement are a caterpillar, a lone red insect and three delicately perched butterflies. The artist's ability to trick the eye is encountered particularly in the delicately painted translucent glass vase, with minute water droplets enhancing the effect to perfection.

The handling of paint and use of clear, strong colours with a lively touch, is typical of the Van Kessel's manner. The remains of a pentiment in the tulip in the top right is evidence perhaps of his reworking the arrangement while painting directly onto the panel. Despite Van Kessel being a prolific artist, Ertz dated relatively few floral still lifes of this type to the same period of around 1660.2 At least two other floral still lifes featuring the same type of glass vessel have been recorded on the art market in recent decades.3


Jan van Kessel the Elder (Antwerp 1626 - 1679), A still life of tulips, irises, apple blossom, roses, convolvulus, gooseberries and other flowers in a glass vase with shells, caterpillars, a dragonfly and other insects, signed and dated 'J van Kessel fecit Anno 165?' (lower left), oil on copper, 79 x 60.5cm. Sold at Bonhams, London, 7 July 2010, lot 80© Bonhams 2001-2023

JVKS (2)

Jan Van Kessel the Elder, Still Life of Tulips, Roses, a Whitish Iris, Cherries, Peas and other Flowers in a roemer surrounded by numerous insects on a carved stone plinth, oil on copper. Sold at Sotheby's, New York, 24 January 2008, lot 59.

A. van der Willigen and F.G. Meijer, A Dictionary of Dutch and Flemish Still-life Painters Working in Oils, 1525–1725, Leiden 2003, p. 122.

2 Others were recorded in Ertz and Nitze-Ertz 2012 no. 495 in the collection of Henry Rogers, Fairhaven in 1975; no. 493 with the Filippo Franco Gallery, Brussels, in 1980; no. 497 with the De Jonckheere Gallery, Paris, in 1999; no. 501 sold Christie's, Amsterdam, 18 November 1993, lot 132.

3 The paintings sold at Bonhams, London, 7 July 2010, lot 80, and at Sotheby's, New York, 24 January 2008, lot 59.

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