Adriaen Coorte (?Middelburg ?1660-after 1707)
THE PIETER AND OLGA DREESMANN COLLECTION OF DUTCH OLD MASTER PAINTINGS Three Still-Lifes by Adriaen Coorte The three paintings presented here epitomise the simple yet powerful beauty that makes Adriaen Coorte one of the most original and captivating still-life painters of the seventeenth century. They are exceptional for having remained together, probably since the time they were made, and this will be the first time in their history that they have appeared at auction. Likely from Middelburg in the province of Zeeland, Coorte was active from 1683 to 1707 leaving an oeuvre that today consists of approximately seventy pictures. His early paintings closely adhere to the subject and style of Melchior d'Hondecoeter (1636-1695), suggesting that he trained with the artist in Amsterdam, or The Hague. Determining his biography is a challenge, however, as only one written trace of Coorte survives from a yearbook of the St. Luke's Guild of Middelburg for 1695-1696. This document, which misspells his name 'Coorde', is record of a censure he received for selling paintings without guild membership and has fueled speculation that he may have been a gentleman-painter removed from professional organisations (Small Wonders. Dutch Still Lifes by Adriaen Coorte, exhibition catalogue, Utrecht and Washington, 2003, p. 5). Given the dearth of extant information on the artist, Coorte remained little-known until the twentieth century. Records from the eighteenth century suggest that his paintings sold for extremely small amounts and there is no scholarship on him before the late 1800s. His works were not in collections of major museums until Still-life with asparagus, of 1697, was given to the Rijksmuseum in 1903 (inv. no. SK-A-2099). Over time, however, Coorte joined the ranks of the most celebrated Dutch artists, thanks in large part to the efforts of Laurens J. Bol, former director of the Dordrechts Museum. Bol brought attention to Coorte through the seminal exhibition Adriaen Coorte. Stillevenschilder of 1958, which included all three of the present works. Coorte's still-lifes are highly distinctive. In his simple compositions, natural objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, and shells most often sit on a stone ledge set against a dark background. This choice and arrangement harkens back to Haarlem still-life painters Pieter Claesz (circa 1597-1660) and Willem Heda (1594-1680). Coorte may have encountered this Haarlem tradition while training in Amsterdam, or through artists who introduced it to Middelburg such as Karel Slabbaert (Ode to Coorte, exhibition catalogue, The Hague, 2008, p. 27). Also in his hometown, he may have been looking to the finely wrought still-life tradition of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621). Despite these influences, Coorte developed an idiom all of his own. His selection of items -- seasonal, rather than exotic fruits and vegetables -- was somewhat unusual: Coorte was the only artist working around 1700 to depict asparagus as a primary subject (Buvelot, The still-lifes of Adriaen Coorte. Oeuvre catalogue, The Hague, 2008, p. 43). Perhaps he consulted the painting manual of Wilhelmus Beurs, published in Amsterdam in 1692, which describes techniques for achieving fine details on asparagus, strawberries, gooseberries, peaches and apricots, all of which recur in his paintings (ibid, pp. 59-61). The three Dreesmann pictures have many key similarities that provide clues as to their creation. Most fundamentally, they were are all painted on paper laid down on canvas, they share a common vertical format and they all use the same distinctive three stepped ledge as a platform for the still-life elements. In the case of the Strawberries and Asparagus, the placement of the two ledges mirror one another so precisely, with the same play of light, that it seems likely that they were conceived as pendants, an idea that is supported by Quentin Buvelot (ibid.). He makes the point that the use of colour in the two pictures provides a harmonious balance -- the reds of the strawberries and redcurrants countering each other in the same way as the white gooseberries and the asparagus. Technical analysis of the paper, carried out in 2007 by Martin Bijl, lends weight to the notion that all three pictures were painted at the same time. In each case, Coorte applied a ground layer to the paper and then covered each with an identical dark paint layer on which he incised lines to ensure the uniformity of the ledge. From this microscopic analysis, Bijl concluded that they were created as a series (ibid., p. 127). Bolstering this hypothesis is the shared early provenance of these paintings. They have been together since the early eighteenth century before succeeding by descent to the Thorbecke Collection, Leiden. Collecting groups of works by Coorte appears to have been a common practice: many owners of Coorte's still-lifes in the Middelburg area had multiple works by the artist and in early sales his paintings were often sold in groups (Washington, exhibition catalogue, op. cit., p. 5). These three paintings perpetuate this trend, having remained together until the present day.
Adriaen Coorte (?Middelburg ?1660-after 1707)

Asparagus and red currants on a stone ledge

Adriaen Coorte (?Middelburg ?1660-after 1707)
Asparagus and red currants on a stone ledge
signed 'A, Coorte' (lower left, on the stone ledge)
oil on paper, laid down on board
13¼ x 9 3/8 in. (33.6 x 23.9 cm.)
In a Dutch seventeenth-century, ebony, cassetta frame (supplied by Wiggins, ref. 12264).
(Probably) by descent in the Thorbecke collection, Leiden, from the early 1700s, and by descent to
Mrs. Rassers-Zaalberg, Leiden, by 1954, and by descent to
Mr. and Mrs. P.L.J. Rassers-Zwart, Breda, remaining in the family until acquired in 2001 by the following,
with Noortman, Maastricht, from whom acquired at The European Fine Art Fair, Maastricht, on 15 March 2001, by
Pieter and Olga Dreesmann (inventory no. B11).
L.J. Bol, 'Adriaen S. Coorte. Stillevenschilder', Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, IV, 1952-3, p. 223, no. 55.
L.J. Bol, Adriaen Coorte. A Unique Late Seventeenth-Century Dutch Still-Life Painter, Assen and Amsterdam, 1977, p. 15, note 33 and p. 61, no. 78, fig. 40.
N. Bakker, I. Bergström, G.M.C. Jansen, S.H. Levie and S. Segal, Masters of Middelburg, Amsterdam, 1984, pp. 214-5, no. 49.
S. Melikian, 'Hothouse of Rarities', Art and Auction, May 2001, pp. 38 and 42.
P.C. Sutton, Dutch and Flemish Paintings. The Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, London, 2002, pp. 86-7, fig. 13c.
Architectural Digest. Die schönsten Häuser der Welt, 30, February 2002, p. 115, illustrated.
H. den Hartog Jager, 'Coorte maakte geschilderde vruchten aaibaar', NRC Handelsblad, 8 April 2003, pp. 1 and 11, illustrated.
W. van Zeil, 'Altijd verse bloemen en altijd vers fruit', De Volkskrant, 9 April 2003, p. 11 (commentary on the 2003 Utrecht exhibition of Adriaen Coorte: Meester van de monumentale eenvoud).
B. Kruijsen, ed., Asperges in olieverf. Een koninklijke groente in de zeventiende eeuw, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle, 2005, pp. 128-9, no. 20B.
F. Barends, 'Henk Helmantel over Adriaen Coorte. Een 'kleine' meester', Collect, Special bij Kunst & Antiek Journaal, November 2007, pp. 74 and 76-9, illustrated.
M. Bijl, N. Lingbeek, C. Potasch and P. Noble, 'Technical research', in Adriaen Coorte. The still lifes of Adriaen Coorte, The Hague, 2008, pp. 43, 63-4, 96-8 and 127, no. 26 and fig. 51.
B. Stigter, 'De ideale bos asperges', NRC Handelsblad. Cultureel Supplement, 29 February 2008, p. 12-13, illustrated.
Q. Buvelot, 'Adriaen Coorte. La poésie du réel', L'Objet d'Art, 435, May 2008, pp. 30-7, illustrated.
Q. Buvelot, The still lifes of Adriaen Coorte -- oeuvre catalogue, to accompany the exhibition Ode to Coorte, The Hague, 2008, pp. 43, 64, 96, and 98, no. 26, fig. 51, front cover of the English edition.
Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, Nederlandse stillevens uit vier eeuwen, 17 July-31 August 1954, no. 40.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Toledo, Toledo Museum of Art; and Toronto, The Art Gallery of Toronto, Dutch Painting. The Golden Age. An Exhibition of Dutch Pictures of the Seventeenth Century, 1954-5, no. 20.
Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum, Adriaen Coorte. Stillevenschilder, 2 August-28 September 1958, no. 21.
Amsterdam, Kunsthandel K. & V. Waterman, Masters of Middelburg, 3- 31 March 1984, no. 49.
Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age, 24 September-10 November 1985, no. 20.
The Hague, Mauritshuis, The Amateur's Cabinet. Seventeenth-Century Dutch Masterpieces from Dutch Private Collections, 10 October 1995-7 January 1996, no. 7.
Utrecht, Centraal Museum der Gemeente Utrecht; and Washington, National Gallery of Art, Small Wonders, Dutch Still Lifes by Adriaen Coorte, 7 March-28 September 2003, no. 17.
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum; Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum; and Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Schloss Wilhelmhöhe, Vom Adel der Malerei. Holland um 1700, 14 October 2006-30 September 2007, no. 11.
The Hague, Mauritshuis, Ode to Coorte, 23 February-9 June 2008, no. 26, front cover of the English edition of the exhibition catalogue.

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