Notable Sales European Paintings
c. 1596 - Antwerp - c. 1624
Lilies and Roses in a Wanli Kraak porselein Vase, Tulips in a Roemer, Cherries and wild Strawberries on a Wanli Kraak porselein Plate, a bread Roll, Apricots and Pears on a pewter Plate and Façon de Venise wine Glasses with a Butterfly on a Table
19 1/4 x 27 5/8 in. 57 x 81 cm.
Private Collection, England
Osias Beert was one of the principal exponents of the archaic formula of still life painters in which objects are seen from above. While his actual date of birth is unknown, he was apprenticed to the Antwerp painter Andries van Baseroo in 1596, and six years later in 1602 he was formally received as Master into the Guild of Saint Luke. Although stylistically his work is allied to that of his contemporaries Peter Binoit, Ambrosius Bosschaert I and Georg Flegel, it is distinguished by a strong use of chiaroscuro that is more reminiscent of the Utrecht master Roelandt Savery. Both these artists seem to have been more concerned with creating subtle atmospheric effects and a more descriptive rendering of the surface textures of the objects involved, as opposed to their contemporaries’ desire to give a full pictorial account of each and every object depicted, often in defiance of perspective. In this sense, and in their fields, both artists were by far the greatest innovators of their day.
As Fred G. Meijeer of the Rijksbureauvoor Kunsthistorisches Documentatie, The Hague, has noted it is extremely hard to date any of Beert’s work, and the artist provides us with very few clues with which to attempt a chronological construction of his œuvre. No dated works by the artist are in fact known. The present painting is a complex and exceptional example of Beert’s work in which he unusually restricts his composition largely to fruit and flowers. While displaying his customary dispersal of components in a tightly balanced grouping on the table, the cooler, clearer tones suggest that this painting may be added to a group of works, probably executed between 1610-20, in which he has moved away from the more archaic compositions through to date from the first decade of the century, towards a more coherent definition of space, and a more delicate rendering of texture. These include Still Life with Oysters and Sweetmeats, in the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Inv. No. 1087, and the Bowl and Vase of Flowers with John Mitchell and son, London, 1983. As Griendl notes, in this period Beert also introduced the single vase of flowers to his œuvre, and displayed a strong interest in the contrasts within his compositions of lights and shadows, apparent also in the present work (see Edith Griendl, Les peintres flamands de nature morte au XVII siècle, 1983, p.28). Beert used objects that must have been in his own possession, since they reappear in several paintings by the artist. In this painting these include the blue and white vase, which is the central focus in his Still Life of Fruit, a single Vase of Flowers, and Bowls of Nuts, sold at Christies, Amsterdam, May 11th 1994, appearing again in a more sparse, but similarly balanced Still Life of Flowers and Fruit, formerly in the Marjorie Wiggin Prescott Collection, sold in Christies, New York, 9th January 1981, Lot 15. The elegant fluted façon de venise glass, though rarely used, is one of the objects in A Breakfast Still Life formerly with Alfred Brod, London, exhibited at the Art Treasure Exhibition, Bath, 29th May - 7th June 1958, no.349; and the unusually shaped red wine glass can also be seen in the background of an upright composition of Oysters and Sweetmeats sold at Sotheby’s, Monaco, 29th November 1986, Lot 327.