Mots-clefs

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Edwaert Collier (Breda 1642-1708 London), ‘A trompe l’oeil of letters, a newspaper, a quill, a magnifying glass and other objects assembled behind ribbons upon wooden boards’, signed and dated ‘Edwart Collier / 1695’ (center left), oil on canvas, 24 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (63.2 x 50.6 cm). Estimate $60,000 – $80,000. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: Ronald A Lee Esq., by 1954.
The Lily and Edmond J Safra Collection; Sotheby’s New York, 18 October 2011, lot 785 ($68,500).

Literature: F. Davis, ‘A page for collectors: The Eye Deceived’, The Illustrated London News, 30th October 1954, illus.

Exhibited: Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, The Eye Deceived (Trompe l’oeil), October-November 1954 (lent by Ronald A Lee)

Notes: Edwart Collier was born in Breda in the province of Brabant, and he may well have received his training as a painter in Haarlem. Letter boards by Collier, popular in England as well as in the Netherlands, are known from 1692 and later. In the present work, the date 1695 on the letter is likely the date of its execution. The booklet displayed next to it, the Apollo Anglicanus or English Apollo, is dated 1694. This seventeen-page booklet was a popular edition on astronomy and astrology by the « student in the physical and mathematical sciences » Richard Saunders, first published as early as 1654 and reprinted annually. It discusses the positions of the stars throughout the year, the tides, and other related phenomena. Collier included the booklet in at least two other still lifes of letter boards, one dated 1676, the other 1701. A similar vertical letter board from the same year as the present work (signed and dated on the letter Edwart Collier/Anno 1695) also includes the numbered letter (this time NO 25), the quill, the sealing wax and stamp, the comb and the ‘Memorie’ note. While Collier often included the same objects in his paintings, he seems to have relished arranging them in a different but equally attractive manner time and time again, maintaining their natural and spontaneous haphazard impression.

Our thanks to Fred G. Meijer, of the RKD in The Hague, for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

Christie’s. OLD MASTER PAINTINGS & SCULPTURE PART II, 29 January 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

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