For further information on the present lot, see separate catalogue
See colour illustration
Little is known about Osias Beert, an Antwerp trained artist whose career was to a degree overshadowed by that of Jan Brueghel I, but whose merits were recognised by Rubens as they collaborated on one occasion. While Brueghel concentrated on still life's of flowers, landscape and small scale 'staffage', Beert concentrated on still life's making a speciality of the 'laden table' mode. Only six pupils were enrolled in his studio between 1605-1618 indicating a limited output, and indeed Beerts' extant oeuvre is not large.
Since 1938 when, following its exhibition in London (see above), the present lot was published by Benedict (loc.cit.), it has been recognised as one of Beerts' best still life's in the 'laden table' mode: notable both for its scale (the support is of a single oak plank, see fig. 1) and for the technical excellence of its execution.
Joseph Lammen, Fasten und Genuss, die Angerichtete Tafel als Thema des Stillebens, Stilleben in Europa, exhibition catalogue, Munster/Baden Baden, 1980, pp. 402-410, has traced the development of the laden table still life, which became a speciality in Antwerp and Haarlem in the first twenty years or so of the seventeenth century, and in which what had previously been a constituent of, for instance, group portraits of militia companies in the later part of the sixteenth century became a subject in itself.
The composition in the present lot is disposed around two crossing diagonals, and is comparable to two still life's in the Heinz collection (see I. Bergström, Still Lifes of the Golden Age, exhibition catalogue, Washington, 1989, p. 95, no. 3, with ill.) and in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Grenoble (see fig. 2). In the present work however the arrangement of the objects is seemingly more naturalistic, informal and casual. The effect of lighting is more marked with clear reflections rendered in the rims of the pewter plates and shadows on the porcelain dishes. Here too Beert does not neglect the table top itself; he delineates the joints in the planks that form it and depicts the grain and knots in the wood.
Dr Sam Segal dates the two pictures in the Heinz collection and that in Grenoble ca. 1607-9 and proposes that the present lot was executed slightly later ca. 1610-15 (written information).
The Nautilus cup was probably made towards the end of the sixteenth century. A Nautilus cup (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam) with a comparable baluster stem, made in Rotterdam in 1590, is reproduced by C. Hernmarck, The Art of the European Silversmith, 1977, fig. 166; his fig. 167 of a Nautilus cup (British Museum), made in Antwerp in 1581, shows a similar finial depicting Neptune riding a horse (rather than a sea-horse).
The knife with a chequer patterned handle of mother-of-pearl and ebony occurs in the Grenoble picture; the type frequently appears in Netherlandish and German still life's of the first half of the seventeenth century. Examples made in 1584 in Nuremberg are in the Deutsches Klingen Museum, Solingen, see Georg Flegel, exhibition catalogue, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1994, p. 75, fig. 44.
The pear shaped porcelain vase may be a fantasy as it combines early to mid-Ming decoration on the body with late Ming decoration on the neck. The shape itself was not typical of kraakporselein ca. 1600 (the vase reproduced by M. Rinaldi, Kraakporselein, 1981, p. 170, fig. 213, approximates). The vase appears in Beerts' earlier still life at Grenoble.
The klapmuts is of a type extensively produced circa 1600. A comparable bowl is in the Rijksmuseum (see Rinaldi, op.cit, p. 208, fig. 268 d).
No precisely comparable Wan-li kraakporselein dish has been traced. It is of the type produced in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The same bowl was depicted by Beert in three other still life's - that in Grenoble, the Heinz collection (Bergström, op.cit., no. 4) and a private collection, Germany (S. Segal, A Fruitful Past, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam/Brunswick, 1983, no. 25, with ill.).
The flowers consist of five varieties of tulip and a Batavian Rose.
The wine glasses were made either in Venice, or more likely, by Venetian craftsmen, working early in the century in Northern Europe. The glass of red wine occurs in the still life in the Heinz collection (Bergström, loc.cit.) and in that in a German private collection (Segal, loc.cit.).
We are grateful to Dr Sam Segal and to Dr J.R. ter Molen of the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen for their help in preparing this catalogue entry