‘Astonishing for its overarching quality’ — The Eric Albada Jelgersma Collection

On the 6 and 7 of December in London, Christie’s offered almost 400 lots from the celebrated Dutch collection of Eric Albada Jelgersma, including a pair of portraits by Frans Hals which are considered to be the finest left in private hands


(Detail) Frans Hals’ (1581/5-1666) Portrait of a Man Holding Gloves and Portrait of a Woman Holding a Handkerchief, both 1637. Oil on canvas, 36⅝ x 27 in (93 x 68.5 cm). Price realised: £10,021,250 on 6 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘This is one of the most important private collections of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings to come to the market in living memory,’ says the head of Christie’s Old Masters department, Henry Pettifer. The Eric Albada Jelgersma Collection is, says the specialist, ‘astonishing for its overarching quality and its scope across all the different genres — portraiture, landscape, genre, and still-life painting.’

The top lot of the sale is a pair of portraits by the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals (1580/5-1666). Dating from 1637, when the artist was at the pinnacle of his fame and fortune, the works depict an unidentified couple thought to be a prosperous Dutch merchant and his wife.


The pair of Hals portraits hanging in Mr Albada Jelgersma's home. Frans Hals (1580/5-1666), Portrait of a Gentleman, Aged 37 and Portrait of a Lady, Aged 36, 1637. Oil on canvas, (both) 36⅝ x 27 in (93 x 68.5 cm). Price realised: £10,021,250 on 6 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

While the paintings were on loan to The Fogg Museum at Harvard University, the renowned Hals scholar Seymour Slive observed that they are ‘outstanding, superlative works… in a near miraculous state of preservation.’ Their exceptional condition means that Hals’ fluid brushwork and subtly toned palette can be clearly appreciated.


An ‘imagined’ illustration of Eric Albada Jelgersma (1939-2018) surrounded by his collection

Eric Albada Jelgersma (1939-2018) was just one of several illustrious owners of the Hals pictures, which are said to be the finest pair of portraits by the artist remaining in private hands. During the 19th century they belonged to the family of Count de Thiènnes, who lived in Castle Rumbeke, one of the oldest renaissance castles in Belgium.

In the 20th century they passed through the hands of Canadian railroad magnate and pioneering Impressionist collector William Cornelius Van Horne and the American diplomat J. William Middendorf II, before Jelgersma acquired them in 1996 from Robert Noortman, the Dutch art dealer and decade-long director of TEFAF art fair.

At that time Albada Jelgersma, a businessman from the south of Holland who had amassed a fortune in the supermarket wholesale industry, was well on his way to establishing his reputation as a connoisseur of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish masterpieces, acquiring works that covered each genre of Golden Age painting.


Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) An Extensive Wooded Landscape, 1610. Oil on copper. 20¾ x 28½ in (52.7 x 72.4 cm). Price realised: £3,608,750 on 6 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

Mr Albada Jelgersma’s collection also includes one of the largest landscapes Jan Brueghel the Elder ever painted on copper (above), and important genre paintings by Gerard Ter Borch, Michiel van Musscher and Dirck Hals, as well as Merry Company, a scene of three young revellers by Judith Leyster (below). This particularly rare work by the greatest female painter of the Dutch Golden Age was painted in 1629 when the artist was just 20 years old, and demonstrates her precocious talent.


Judith Leyster (1609-1660), Merry Company. Oil on canvas. 29⅜ x 24⅞ in (74.5 x 63.2 cm). Price realised: £1,808,750 on 6 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

Other notable highlights include Anthony van Dyck’s monumental painting of Venus and Adonis  (below), which is a rare disguised double-portrait of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, and his wife Katherine Manners, as the characters from Classical mythology. Painted in 1620, most probably to celebrate the couple's marriage, then rediscovered in 1990, the canvas is one of only three works datable to Van Dyck’s first trip to England — and the only one still in a private collection.


Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Venus and Adonis. Oil on canvas. 87¾ x 64⅛ in (222.9 x 163 cm).

In addition, the evening sale features a selection of still life paintings, including a small-scale masterpiece by Ambrosuis Bosschaert the Elder and a monumental Frans Snyders canvas (below).


Frans Snyders (1579-1657), Larder. Oil on canvas. 66⅝ x 93⅛ in (169.2 x 236.5 cm). Price realised: £1,112,750 on 6 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

On the following day Christie’s will offer more than 300 lots from Eric Albada Jelgersma’s collection of furniture, decorative arts, antiquities, silverware and Chinese bronzes and ceramics. Housed between the collector’s homes in Amsterdam and Brussels, these pieces were assembled with the help of the renowned interior designer Axel Vervoordt.

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Highlights from The Collection Sale  include a George IV mahogany desk chair from circa 1825, an important collection of German parcel-gilt silver cups and dishes from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, a George III-style 18-light chandelier, a pair of circa 1880 American terrestrial and celestial table globes, a group of Egyptian antiquities, and nine Chinese archaistic hard-stone bi discs.

A selection of precious objects on display in Mr Albada Jelgersma’s Brussels home, including a variety of Chinese archaistic hard-stone bi discs (right)

‘Eric Albada Jelgersma was a tastemaker of his generation and the exhibitions at Christie’s will recreate his extraordinary view of how classic and modern can be shown together to brilliant effect,’ remarks Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s Global President.

In a statement, the collector's children — Dennis, Derk and Valerie Albada Jelgersma — spoke of how their father had given much thought to the future of his Old Master picture collection, which he had formed over many decades with ‘love, knowledge and passion’ with their mother, Marie-Louise Albada Jelgersma. 

‘During lengthy discussions with us in 2017, he made the decision to sell parts of the collection at auction,’ they said, ‘enabling these splendid works to pass on to a new generation of collectors. Earlier this year, our father chose to entrust Christie’s with these sales and, following his very sad passing last June, we are honouring our father’s wishes.’ 

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