We are grateful to Fred Meijer of the RKD for the following catalogue entry:
Little is known about the life of Claes Bergoijs, whose oeuvre has started to be recognised only during the last few decades, after several signed examples of his still lifes had come to light. Claes was the son of Jan Bergoijs and he was working in Amsterdam. The fact that he was indeed a painter of still lifes is confirmed by two contemporary documents in the Amsterdam archives in which he is mentioned as such, referred to as Nicolaes (and Claes) Bourgeois (also spelled as Borgois). Still lifes by Bergoijs were recorded in a 1664 sale catalogue, in a 1669 inventory at Amsterdam and in the catalogue of an Amsterdam auction held on 13 April 1695. The artist usually signed as C. Bergoijs, and he was clearly inspired by the work of Willem Kalf, the highly influential still-life painter who settled in Amsterdam in 1653.
In view of the number of paintings that can now be attributed to Bergoijs, he must have been quite successful and at least able to compete with other still-life painters producing similar work.
Bergoijs' main inspirer, Willem Kalf, spent a few years in Paris as a young artist. There, he encountered new tendencies in still life painting and absorbed them in his own work. Shortly after his return to Holland, he developed his own personal style of painting rich still lifes of luxury items - silver cups and dishes, Chinese porcelain vessels and elaborate Venetian-style wine glasses - mysteriously lit, displayed before a dark background, and often placed on an eastern tablecloth. Despite the high quality and luxury status of the objects he rendered, the compositions of those still lifes are often restricted in their opulence. Kalf would concentrate on a few items per painting, which he would render to their best advantage - perfectly arranged and dramatically lit. More often than not, his lighting had the effect of modern spotlights.
Kalf's style met with an eager following in Amsterdam already shortly after his arrival in that city; among the local artists who started to work in Kalf's style are Jurriaen van Streek and Christiaen Striep, to whom the painting discussed here was previously attributed. The work of Claes Bergoijs is no less in quality than the paintings by Van Streek or Striep - in fact the latter's are rarely very well preserved. Due to the fact that until recently, hardly any signed work by Bergoijs was known, his paintings that are not signed - or more likely: that have been deprived of their signatures in the past, probably in order to allow upgrading to Kalf - were not easily recognised as his. Nevetheless, Claes Bergoijs's still lifes have distinct individual qualities. In his choice of subjects, compositions and objects he generally followed Willem Kalf, but his lighting is more even and his rendering of the objects is sharper - where Kalf aims for atmosphere and mystery, Bergoijs prefers presence and precision.
Comparing our painting with a still life by Willem Kalf in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, we can observe, for instance, that Kalf defines his columbine cup by means of numerous sparkling highlights, while the one in Bergoijs's painting stands out sharply defined against the dark background. Almost the exact same Chinese porcelain bowl - a Swatow model? - seems to radiate light in Kalf's painting, while Bergoijs outlines the bowl and its contents sharply in his work. Where Kalf prefers a soft, fluffy eastern tapestry, Bergoijs usually, like here, employs a shiny, almost radiantly crisp green velvet cloth. Even the two chased silver dishes differ in a similar way, although Bergoijs, too, mainly defines his by sharp highlights. Both paintings present the same wealth, but while with Kalf it has an almost untouchable mystery, Bergoijs presents it as an attainable reality.
In any event, Claes Bergoijs stands out as an individual artist in his own right and the present still life with a columbine cup as one of his more elaborate and succesful works.