CLARA PEETERS (ANTWERP ?1589-AFTER 1657)
CLARA PEETERS (ANTWERP ?1589-AFTER 1657)
CLARA PEETERS (ANTWERP ?1589-AFTER 1657)
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CLARA PEETERS (ANTWERP ?1589-AFTER 1657)

A basket of red and green grapes, a goldfinch, game and a squirrel on a wooden table

Details
CLARA PEETERS (ANTWERP ?1589-AFTER 1657)
A basket of red and green grapes, a goldfinch, game and a squirrel on a wooden table
signed 'CLARA P.' (lower left)
oil on panel
20 x 29 3/8 in. (50.8 x 74.6 cm.)
Provenance
with Galerie de Jonckheere, Paris, where acquired by the present owner in 1998.

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Lot Essay

Clara Peeters was among the earliest and most original still life painters in the seventeenth-century Lowlands. Her earliest painting dates to within six years of the first known food and flower still life paintings in northern Europe. Likewise, she was among the first group of artists to treat fish and game subjects and may have inaugurated the tradition of self-advertising by discreetly including her portrait reflected in the displayed objects (P. Hibbs Decoteau, Clara Peeters, 1594-ca. 1640, and the Development of Still-Life Painting in Northern Europe, Lingen, 1992, p. 7).

Despite her import to the development of northern still life painting, biographical details remain scarce and fewer than forty signed paintings are known today. Her place and date of birth are unknown, but she was certainly active in Antwerp by 1607, the year of her earliest dated painting (private collection). Perhaps on account of the limitations placed on her as a female artist, she appears to have been almost exclusively engaged in the production of still lifes, works for which she enjoyed a degree of international acclaim. Documents indicate that, in her lifetime, Peeters’ works were to be found in eminent collections as far afield as Rotterdam (1627), Amsterdam (1635) and Madrid (1637). No dated paintings are known by her after 1621, the year in which she may have given up painting.

Like many of her contemporaries, Peeters’ still lifes exhibit a gradual transition from the birds-eye view seen in her earliest paintings to a more head-on perspective in those painted in the years leading up to 1620. The elevated vantage point of this painting is consistent with Peeters’ earliest dated works from 1607 and 1608 (both private collection), but the overlapping game – a wild duck, a woodcock, a partridge, a thrush, bullfinches and a rabbit – creates a more complex compositional arrangement, suggesting it postdates these paintings by a few years. Peeters included the squirrel in the upper right background in at least two additional paintings, both of which are datable to circa 1612-15 on stylistic grounds (Palazzo Pitti, Florence and Koller, Zurich, 14-17 September 2010, lot 3036). On account of its elevated vantage point, the present painting likely dates to a few years earlier.

Peeters’ compositions were deeply influenced by those of her Antwerp contemporary Frans Snyders, the most successful animal painter in Antwerp in the first half of the seventeenth century. Squirrels first appear in Snyders’ work around 1610-12 (see, for example, H. Robels, Frans Snyders: Stilleben- und Tiermaler, 1579-1657, Munich, 1989, pp. 246-247, no. 98, illustrated), around the time Peeters executed the present painting. As is typical of their disparate approach to the depiction of live animals, Snyders’ squirrels stealthily swipe nuts or fruit from a bowl or basket, while Peeters’ have a staid, almost statuesque appearance.

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