Tomás Hiepes (?1610-1674 Valencia)
Tomás Hiepes (?1610-1674 Valencia)

Grapes, peaches and a snail in a Chinese porcelain bowl atop a gilt and inlaid cabinet

Details
Tomás Hiepes (?1610-1674 Valencia)
Grapes, peaches and a snail in a Chinese porcelain bowl atop a gilt and inlaid cabinet
signed and dated 'Thomas Hiepes fecit ANo 1646' (lower center, on the cabinet)
oil on canvas
34 x 32 ¾ in. (86.4 x 83.1 cm.)
Provenance
Private collection, Paris, from whom acquired by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

Tomás Hiepes was one of the most accomplished still life painters working in Valencia in the second and third quarters of the 17th century. First documented as a member of the city’s College of Painters in 1616, dated works by the artist only appear in 1642. This painting—which Hiepes prominently signed and dated ‘1646’ along the front of the ebony, gilt and inlaid cabinet—is, therefore, a relatively early work by the artist. Compared with still lifes by his contemporary, Antonio de Pereda, Hiepes displays a greater interest in monumental, strictly composed and geometric compositions.

The small, ebony cabinet inlaid with ivory in this painting is of a type known in Spanish as an escritorio (writing desk). From about 1560, they were widely produced in Augsburg, Antwerp and Naples, all cities that were at the time under Spanish imperial rule. Hiepes painted several similar still lifes with ebony cabinets. A particularly close example, also with a central image of Orpheus but with birds on the drawer fronts, as well as two additional examples in which Hiepes replaced Orpheus with an image of Athena copied from a 16th-century print by Jacob Binck, are documented in the literature (see A. E. Pérez Sánchez, Thomas Yepes, Valencia, 1995, pp. 60, 125, 126, no. 12, illustrated). While the precise source for Hiepes’ image of Orpheus remains to be determined, it almost assuredly also derives from a northern European print of the 16th or 17th centuries.

The overflowing bowl of grapes and peaches with landscape decoration appears to be based on motifs found in contemporary English and Dutch Delftware, while the form of the bowl with its finely worked everted rim may suggest the artist’s familiarity with Chinese porcelain (European-made porcelain would not appear until the first decade of the 18th century). A very similar bowl with apples, pears and plums likewise appears in one of a pair of fruit still lifes dated 1642 in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. Such images brimming with natural and artificial luxury objects afforded Hiepes’ viewers the opportunity to contemplate the wondrous bounty created by both God and man.
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