The present lot is an archetypal interior of a school of painting which also included the artist's friends and contemporaries, the brothers-in-law Vilhelm Hammershøi and Peder Ilsted. All three artists were members of "The Free Exhibition" a modernist art society established in Copenhagen at the end of the 19th century. Their art could be traced back via the Biedermeier interiors of their Danish Golden Age forebears, such as Wilhelm Eckersberg, all the way back to Dutch art of the 17th century, in particular the work of artists such as Johannes Vermeer (fig. 1).
All three artists typically drew inspiration from their own domestic surroundings, often including their spouses, represented as a solitary figure, almost invariably painted side-on or from behind, and meditatively involved in quiet pursuits such as reading. Their homes are represented as sanctuaries, havens of peace far removed from the hustle and bustle of an outside world that is usually only hinted at by a shaft of light from a window which, as here, is often unseen.
However, whereas Hammershøi’s oeuvre was characterised by a combination of asceticism and Symbolism, typically depicting sparsely furnished interiors executed in a muted palette of greys and whites, Holsøe’s paintings stressed the material qualities and richness of his domestic surroundings. These differences are apparent when comparing the present lot to a work by Hammershøi in the musée d’Orsay (fig. 2), which is strikingly similar in subject and composition. Whereas the latter is stripped down only to the essentials of chair, table and a platter, set against a bare wall, and executed in modulated ones which seem to absorb the light, the interior of Holsøe’s home is richly adorned, and rendered with more painterly brushstrokes, which emphasize the plasticity and reflective qualities of the objects depicted. Several of these appear in other paintings by the artist, and include a large 17th century Dutch landscape and the Chinese porcelain figurine on the side table or closed spinet. The silver platter recalls the Dutch still lives of artists such as Willem Kalf and, together with the porcelain vase which echoes the tones of the sitter’s neck, gently reflects the light pooling in from the window behind, resulting in a painting which is at once tangible and deeply contemplative.