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Jacob van Walscapelle (Dordrecht 1644-1727 Amsterdam)
Jacob van Walscapelle (Dordrecht 1644-1727 Amsterdam)

A garland of flowers and fruit with a snail and butterflies

Jacob van Walscapelle (Dordrecht 1644-1727 Amsterdam)
A garland of flowers and fruit with a snail and butterflies
signed 'Jacob: Walscapel.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
23½ x 32¾ in. (59.7 x 83.2 cm.)
Bought c. 1920s by Dr. Fritz Paulus (1877-1955), Aachen, and by descent.
Anonymous sale; Van Ham, Cologne, 19 November 2004, lot 923.
Private collection, Aachen.

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Lot Essay

This lush and vibrant garland is the work of Dutch 17th-century artist Jacob van Walscapelle. Born in Dordrecht as Jacobus Cruydenier, Walscapelle later adopted his maternal great-grandfather's surname, Van Walscapelle, and in the mid-1660s was a pupil of the Amsterdam still-life painter Cornelis Kick (1631/34-1681). Van Walscapelle's flower paintings closely resembled those of Kick until around 1670, when he began producing meticulously rendered, strongly lit and sharply defined fruit and flowers reminiscent of works by still-life masters Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-1682/84) and Abraham Mignon (1640-1679). For this garland, De Heem appears to have been Van Walscapelle's main source of inspiration: elements such as his balanced choice of flowers and fruit, the density and rhythm of his composition, and the manner in which he flanked his garland with blue plums and grapes recall De Heem's garland of a similar size in the Uffizi, Florence (inv. 1890. M. 1261) and another in the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe (inv. 361).

The flowers depicted in this picture include roses, peonies, a poppy, guelder roses, morning glory, a pansy and flax; among the fruits are cherries, grapes, plums, medlars, strawberries, blackberries and a melon. Also included in the garland are a walnut and stalks of wheat, as well as a snail and various butterflies. This display of flowers and fruit does not include any overt symbolism, although some elements would have evoked established themes for contemporary viewers. The stalks of wheat and the grapes, for instance, can be associated with the bread and wine of the Eucharist, while the butterflies may be metaphors for the resurrected soul of the devout Christian. The fast-fading flowers may allude to the transience of life. Religious and philosophical significance aside, this subject provided Van Walscapelle the opportunity to display his mastery of light and texture, as well as his virtuosic ability to render flowers, leaves and ripe fruit in stunning detail.

It is challenging to establish a firm date for this picture, as there are few securely dated works by Van Walscapelle. The dependence on De Heem's examples would suggest a date after the early 1670s, but the two blue flowers at upper center hint at an even later date. They appear to be flax flowers (Linum perenne), which originated in Eastern Europe and Western Asia and were only grown in the Netherlands from 1686 onwards (see S. Segal in Boeket in Willet, exh. cat., Museum Willet Holhuysen, Amsterdam, 1970, no. 16).

We are grateful to Fred Meijer of the RKD, The Hague, for his assistance in cataloguing this picture.

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