Henriette Ronner (Amsterdam 1821-1909 Elsene)
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Henriette Ronner (Amsterdam 1821-1909 Elsene)

Playful kittens by a spinning wheel

Henriette Ronner (Amsterdam 1821-1909 Elsene)
Playful kittens by a spinning wheel
signed 'Henriette Ronner.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
128 x 100 cm.
Mr. P.D. Stange, Christie's, London, 16 May 1919, lot 143.
W.W. Sampson & Son, London.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 3 October 1975, lot 90.
Galerie Volmer, Düsseldorf, December 1975, where acquired by the present owner.
Special notice
Christie’s charges a premium to the buyer on the Hammer Price of each lot sold at the following rates: 29.75% of the Hammer Price of each lot up to and including €20,000, plus 23.8% of the Hammer Price between €20,001 and €800.000, plus 14.28% of any amount in excess of €800.000. Buyer’s premium is calculated on the basis of each lot individually.

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Lot Essay

As a descendant of a family of artists it is not surprising that Henriette Ronner at a young age decided to dedicate her life to the arts. She received her first painter's easel from her father Josephus Augustus Knip (1777-1847) on her eleventh birthday. Her father, a gifted artist himself who specialised in painting cattle, noticed his daughter's talent already at an early stage and decided to tutor her. She worked from early morning till dark and was only allowed two hours of rest during the day which were spent in a dark room. Both Josephus Knip as well as his father Nicolaas Frederik Knip (1741-1808) were, at an older age, afflicted by blindness and he believed two hours a day in a dark room would prevent Henriette from this same fate.

Ronner was taught extensively by her father and he advised her to specialize in one genre which would surely attract buyers, but her most important teacher was nature itself. She decided to paint the animals around the farm where she lived which would prove a wise decision, especially since this genre became very popular in the 19th Century.

Ronner's oeuvre can roughly be divided in three periods. The first period is characterised by rural subjects from her close surroundings. The second period dates after 1850 when Henriette moved to Brussels with her husband Feico Ronner and became a renowned dog paintress. In 1860 she executed a painting entitled La mort d'un ami which was highly acclaimed. For this painting she received a Gold Medal at the Levende Meesters exhibition in The Hague. In 1862 she exhibited the same painting at the World Art Fair in London, thereby establishing an international name for herself. From 1870 onwards Ronner's primary subject matter would become cats, which would remain for almost forty years until her death. The artist's choice to change to this commercial subject could not have come at a better time. Throughout Europe the well to do middle class was taking a great liking to cats.

Ronner would portray her models as if they were all individual creatures with each their own expression. A recurring theme in her work are the playful kittens in a luxurious interior, often with a watchful mother nearby. The present lot shows Ronner's exceptional talent for depicting these playful and elegant creatures: each shiny area of fur, each whisker, is painted with great precision and eye for detail. The light shines in a playful manner on the furry coats of the kittens and the contrast between the different fabrics and colours depicted in the present lot are a beautiful example of Ronner's skillfulness.

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