• Old Masters auction at Christies

    Sale 12109

    Old Masters

    26 October 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 121

    Adam de Coster (Mechelen 1586-1643 Antwerp)

    The card players

    Estimate

    Adam de Coster (Mechelen 1586-1643 Antwerp)
    The card players
    oil on canvas
    43 3/8 x 57 7/8 in. (121 x 147.2 cm.)


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    By the early 1630s, as Benedict Nicolson notes, Adam de Coster had established himself in Antwerp as a renowned painter of nocturnal scenes, or pictor noctium (B. Nicolson 1961, op. cit., p. 186), and he is labeled as such in a portrait etching by Sir Anthony van Dyck from 1626, later published in The Iconography. Born in Mechelen, De Coster registered as a member of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke from 1607-1608, but little is known of his earlier training. Though no signed or dated pictures have survived, a body of work has been ascribed to De Coster on the basis of his lost painting engraved by Lucas Vosterman showing a candlelit game of backgammon, a picture that shows his clear debt to Gerrit van Honthorst. As Nicolson (1966, op. cit., p. 253) has noted, the present painting shares many compositional elements with the Vosterman’s engraving, including the floppy hat worn by the man at right, the hanging curtain, and the choice of a low viewpoint. De Coster may have traveled to Italy, and indeed his early use of strong chiaroscuro suggests such a journey. As in the present painting, his half-length figures are typically illuminated by candlelight, half-masked by a hand. A second version of this composition, previously attributed to Georges de la Tour and depicting just the lefthand figure group, is in the Musée Municipal, Guéret (see J. Thuillier, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Georges de la Tour, Paris 1973, pl. D14).

    Provenance

    A.C. Nomico, Avenue de Belgique 32, Alexandria, 1949.
    Caloyannis collection, Athens, by the late 1940s or early 1950s, and by descent; Sotheby's, London, 5 July 2012, lot 243, where acquired after the sale by the present owner.


    Literature

    The Connoisseur, CXXIII, March 1949, p. 50, no. 1081.
    B. Nicolson, 'Notes on Adam de Coster', The Burlington Magazine, CIII, no. 698, May 1961, p. 186.
    B. Nicolson, 'Candlelight Pictures from the South Netherlands', The Burlington Magazine, CVIII, no. 758, May 1966, pp. 253, fig. 45.
    B. Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement, Oxford, 1979, p. 44.
    B. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, Turin, 1990, I, p. 101, no. 1595; III, fig. 1595.


    Exhibited

    Athens, National Gallery and Alexander Soutzos Museum.