Pieter Claesz. (Berchem 1597/8 – 1660/1 Haarlem), A Roemer, an Overturned Pewter Jug, Olives and a Half Peeled Lemon on Pewter Plates. Estimation 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 USD. Photo Sotheby’s
signed with the monogram PC [in ligature] and dated Ao 1635 on the edge of the lemon dish; oil on panel; 16 1/8 by 24 1/4 inches; 41 by 61.5 cm.
PROVENANCE: J. Phelan, Esq., London;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 16 December 1911, lot 104, for 145 guineas to Agnew;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, from 1912 until 1919;
Private collection, England, 1922;
With Asscher, Koetser and Welker, Amsterdam, 1922;
A. van Veen, Rotterdam, 1922-1924;
With Gebr. Douwes, Amsterdam and London, 1924;
Willem Joseph Rudolf Dreesmann (1885-1954), Amsterdam,1924-1954;
By descent to Pia van Spaendonck-Dreesmann (1917-1995), Tilburg, from 1955 to 1970, and Antwerp, Ekeren, until 1974;
Private collection, Switzerland;
Private collection, Germany;
Willem Baron van Dedem, Hoorn, until 1993;
Anonymous sale (« Property of a Private Collector ») New York, Christie’s, 14 January 1993, lot 109, reproduced on the front cover;
There purchased by the present collector.
EXPOSITION: Amsterdam, Kunsthhandel J. Goudstikker Tentoonstelling Het Stilleven, 18 February – 26 March, 1933, no. 59;
Münster, Westfälisches Landsmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte and Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Stilleben in Europa, 25 November 1979 – 15 June 1980, no. 224.
LITTERATURE: I. Errera, Répertoire des Peintures datées, Brussels 1920, p. 208;
N.R.A. Vroom, De Schilders van het Monochrome Banketje, Amsterdam 1945, pp. 34, 42 and 199, no. 35, reproduced p. 32, fig. 19;
I. Bergström, G. Betz et al., Stilleben: Die grosse Zeit des Europäischen Stillebens, Stuttgart and Zurich 1979, p. 183;
G. Langemeyer and H.-A. Peters (eds.), Stilleben in Europa, exhibition catalogue Münster 1979, pp. 425-428, no. 224, reproduced p. 427;
N.R.A. Vroom, A Modest Message as intimated by the Painters of the Monochrome Banketje, Schiedam 1980, vol. I, pp. 36-38, reproduced p. 37; vol. II, p. 21, no. 70 (incorrectly listed as dated 1636);
V.I. Stitz, ‘Johann Michael Hambach ein Kölner Stillebenmaler,’ in Wallraf-Richartz-Jarbuch, 1990, pp. 208, 210, reproduced pl. 6;
S. Melikian, ‘Old Masters Brush Off the Recession,’ in The Herald Tribune, Saturday-Sunday, 23-24 January 1993, p. 7;
Christie’s Review of the Season 1993, p. 19, reproduced in colour;
P. Sutton, Dutch & Flemish Paintings: The Collection of Willem, Baron van Dedem, London 2002, pp. 81 and 82, note 5 (as private collection Switzerland);
M. Brunner-Bulst, Pieter Claes: der Hauptmeister des Haarlemer Stillebens im 17. Jahrhundert, Luca
2004, pp. 174-175, 178, 181, 240, cat. no. 64, reproduced p. 240.
DESCRIPTION: Roemer, an Overturned Pewter Jug, Olives and a Half-Peeled Lemon on Pewter Plates is a key work in Pieter Claesz.’s development as a painter of still-life, signaling a new approach to the genre. In it he abandons the more luxurious displays of his early years in favor of compositions with fewer objects organized around a simple geometric structure and restricts his palette to suit this more muted style. In her 2004 monograph on the artist, Martina Brunner-Bulst focuses on this painting to introduce and explain his mature style and how it shaped subsequent still life painting in the Netherlands.1
Claesz.’s early paintings, from the 1620s, are representative of the monochromatic still lifes that were popular in Haarlem at the time. The predominant colors were warm browns and olives, but the artist then added elements of local color to enliven the mix. Although tighter and more unified than the works of his predecessors, these early compositions can still be described as “additive” in nature: the view point is high and the various objects are arranged so that each can be seen clearly, with little or no overlapping, and coloring is not totally monochrome.
The present work, a modest ontbijtje (breakfast piece), ushers in Claesz.’s new approach. He lowers the viewpoint, creating a feeling of intimacy and bringing us closer to the objects on the table. There are fewer pieces and they are placed more closely together. However, what is most important is his use of a central organizing principle, here a triangle, with the Roemer at the apex, the fallen jug as one of the arms and the table top as its base. Every object has a clear and well-defined place in the composition and moving even one of them would pull the composition apart.
Claesz. used some of the individual elements in earlier compositions and they in fact became important motifs throughout his career. The overturned jug, for example, first appears in a breakfast piece of 1628, now in a private collection. The lemon peel dangling over the edge of the table can be found in a number of compositions, including Still Life with Tazza, in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, dated 1636, which was also formerly in the collection of Baron Willem van Dedem. This bravura element is particularly effective in the present work, where the bright yellow and white of the peel and pith is set against the dark green table cloth.
Various interpretations of the meaning of Dutch still-lifes have been offered over the years. In the case of the breakfast pieces they have been described as allegories of transience, depictions of luxury and excess, or in this particular case perhaps modesty, or representations of important commodities in the Dutch trading empire (beer and bread). Scholars disagree and, in truth, we cannot be certain how a 17th century viewer would have interpreted this painting. However, what we can see for ourselves is that A Roemer, an Overturned Pewter Jug is a brilliant but simple design that is as compelling today as it would have been in 1635.
1. M. Brunner-Bulst, op. cit., pp. 174-175.
2. Ibid., p. 175, reproduced p. 224, cat. no. 35
Sotheby’s. Master Paintings: Part I. New York | 29 janv. 2015, 10:00 AM