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Property from the Collection of Cecil and Hilda Lewis (LOTS 6 & 14)

Pewter jug and silver tazza on a table

Pewter jug and silver tazza on a table
signed with the artist's owl device (lower centre, on the table cloth) and dated '1633' (centre left, on the jug)
oil on panel
35 5⁄8 × 28 1⁄4 in. (90.4 x 71.7 cm.)
Frederik Conrad Bugge (1754-1842); his sale, C.W. Haagen, Copenhagen, 21 August 1837, lot 127, as 'Anonymous' (145 Krone to the following).
Adam Wilhelm Moltke, Count Molke (1785-1864), Copenhagen, and by descent to his grandson,
Frederik Christian Moltke (1854-1936); his sale, Copenhagen, 1 June 1931, lot 50, as 'Gerrit Willemsz. Heda' (7,900 Krone).
Niels Olesen (1881-1956), Copenhagen, by 1941, and by inheritance to his second wife,
Asta Olesen, née Løffler (1895-1983); (†), Arne Bruun Rasmussen, Copenhagen, 2 May 1984, lot 20.
with French & Co, New York, from whom acquired by the following,
Linda and Gerald Guterman (b. 1942), New York; their sale, Sotheby's, New York, 14 January 1988, lot 41 ($2,200,000).
Private collection, USA.
with Verner Amell Ltd, 1990, from whom acquired by the father of the present owners.
O.J. Rawert, Verzeichniss einer Sammlung von Oelgemählden dem Herrn Konferenzrath und geheimen Kabinetskassirer Frederik Conrad Bugge, Ritter vom Dannebroge und Dannebrogsmanne gehörend, Copenhagen, 1829, no. 159, as 'Anonymous'.
N.L. Høyen, Fortegnelse over den Moltkeske Malerisamling, Copenhagen, 2nd edition, 1856, no. 83, as 'Boelema'.
P. de Boer, 'Jan Jansz. van Uyl', Oud Holland, LVII, 1940, pp. 56 and 62.
N.R.A. Vroom, De schilders van het monochrome banketje, Amsterdam, 1945, p. 218, no. 278.
I. Bergström, Dutch Still-Life Painting in the Seventeenth Century, London, 1956, pp. 144-148, pl. IV, fig. 129.
P. Gammelbo, Dutch still-Life Painting from the 16th to the 18th Centuries in Danish Collections, Copenhagen, 1960, no. 62, illustrated.
N.R.A. Vroom, A Modest Message, as Intimated by the Painters of the 'Monochrome Banketje, Schiedam, 1980, II, p. 127, no. 657, illustrated.
D. Gimelson, 'The Guterman Collection: Portrait of the Businessman as a Collector', Art+Auction, September 1985, where described as the 'most beautifully perfect Dutch monochrome still-life in existence'.
A. van der Willigen and F. Meijer, A dictionary of Dutch and Flemish still-life painters working in oils, 1525-1725, Leiden, 2003, p. 199.
F.G. Meijer, Slow Food Dutch and Flemish Meal Still-Lifes 1600-1640, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle, 2017, p. 47, fig. 34.
Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, Mit bedste kunstvaerk, October 1941, no. 85.
Copenhagen, Kunstforeningen, Hollandske og flamske stilleben fra 1600 - tallet i dansk eje, 30 January-28 February 1965, no. 84, illustrated on the front of the catalogue.
Amsterdam, The Rijksmuseum, Het Nederlandse Stilleven 1550-1720, 19 June-19 September 1999, no. 20 (catalogue entry by Alan Chong and Wouter Kloek).

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Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Senior Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Once described as ‘the most beautifully perfect Dutch monochrome still-life in existence’ (Gimelson, op. cit.), Pewter Jug and a Tazza on a Table is widely regarded as the stand out masterpiece in the oeuvre of the enigmatic Amsterdam painter Jan den Uyl, by whom only around a dozen works are known. Painted in 1633 and signed with the eponymous emblem of an owl (‘uyl’ is Dutch for owl), this picture has been celebrated for its striking originality and extraordinary technical accomplishment, constituting a highpoint in the ‘monochrome banketje tradition that evolved in Haarlem with Pieter Claesz (1597-1624) and Willem Claesz Heda (1593-1680) in the second quarter of the seventeenth century.
Little is known about the life of Den Uyl and our understanding of his artistic persona only began to take shape in 1940 when Pieter de Boer constructed an oeuvre for the artist for the first time (op. cit.). Until then, the majority of Den Uyl’s works, including this one, had traditionally been mis-attributed to either Willem Claesz Heda or his son Gerret Heda. It was De Boer who proved that the owl device was his signature, citing the Still-Life with Ham (Hartford, Wadsworth Athenaeum), which is signed ‘JDUijl’ together with an engraved owl on the beaker. De Boer, who claimed to have ‘retrieved the artist from forgetfulness’, identified eight works that were definitely by Den Uyl (including the present one), five of which were signed with the owl.
Although an exact contemporary of Heda and Claesz, Den Uyl developed a highly distinctive style with a particularly audacious approach to composition. In this example, all the main elements – the pewter jug, the flute, the upturned tazza and the plate of fruit - are weighted on the left side of the picture. They fit neatly within the lines of the niche in the background, creating a strong vertical accent, which continues through the white table cloth below. Strong diagonal compositional lines are achieved at the same time with the top of the flute glass and tip of the white table cloth acting as two apexes. This dynamic use of form elicits a unique sense of balance and monumentality. As Ingvar Bergström stressed: ‘The composition [of this picture] was something entirely new and unconventional in still-life art in the year 1633’ (op. cit., p. 146).
Den Uyl’s use of colour and light was no less original. Bright light from the left creates brilliant accents on the pewter jug, the silver tazza and the white tablecloth, offset against the deep green of the table cloth. The red currants and yellow and white tones of the bread and lemon draw attention to the silver platter, which balances precariously over the side of the table to reinforce the impression of depth. The articulation of the background, which in itself was a novel idea, painted with dappled greys and pinks, serves to unify the whole picture. The artist clearly relished the job of rendering different textures and surfaces. The pewter jug and the tazza are described with particular brio, using thick impasto in the highlights and extraordinary subtlety in the rendering of the dents and scratches in the surfaces, at once making them tangible and usable objects.
In 1956, Bergström asserted that: ‘this work alone would be enough to secure for Den Uyl a reputation as one of Holland’s foremost still-life painters’ (ibid., p. 148), but he remains a mysterious, if exalted, figure on account of his extreme rarity. Certainly he was held in the highest regard by his contemporaries, as attested to by the fact that Rubens owned no fewer than three of his paintings (see J.M. Muller, Rubens: The Artist as Collector, Princeton, 1989, p. 143, nos. 302-304).

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