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
‘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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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).
On the following day Christie’s will offer more than 300 lots from Eric Albada Jelgersma’s collection of
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
Sign up today
Christie's Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week
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.
‘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
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.’