PROPERTY FROM THE BILL BLASS COLLECTION
Arras College, Louvain, Belgium;
From whom acquired in 1770 by Henry Blundell (1724-1810), Ince Blundell Hall Lancashire;
Thence by descent to Charles Blundell (died 1841);
Thence by descent to Colonel Joseph Weld of Lulworth, Lulworth Castle, Dorset;
His sale, London, Christie's, December 12 1980, lot 100, there purchased for £12,000 by Christopher Gibbs;
With Christopher Gibbs London;
From whom acquired by Bill Blass, New York.
H. Blundell, An account of statues, busts, bass-relieves, cinerary urns, and other ancient marbles, and paintings at Ince, 1803, p.211, no. 1;
Pictures from Ince Blundell Hall, exhibition catalogue, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1960, p. 5.
Trompe l'oeil painting made its appearance in the Netherlands around the mid-17th century. Artists such as Jacobus Biltius, Jan Weenix and Melchior d'Hondecoeter started to paint pictures to trick the eye mostly representing game birds suspended before a niche or against a monochrome wall. These pictures were very successful in their time and were often part of the decoration of Dutch homes. Aside from the traditional Dutch love of illusion, another factor strongly influenced the development of these types of works. The Dutch were fascinated by the direct observation and accurate representation of nature. Birds hanging on a nail would have been a common element in a Dutch interior and as these works were extremely sharp and detailed, one would expect that these illusionistic images would often achieve their desired effect.
Jacobus Biltius was born in the Hague and was active there around the mid-17th century. He was listed as a pupil of Carel Hardy in 1651, and lived there until at least 1660 when painter's guild records mention that he went to Amsterdam. There is no record of him working in Amsterdam, though Biltius is recorded in Maastricht by 1666 and remained there until 1670. He moved to Antwerp in 1671 where he was made a member of the Guild the following year. He then moved in 1677 to Bergen op Zoom where he lived until his death in 1681.
Biltius created numerous trompe l'oeil paintings dated between 1663 and 1677. He remains mostly known for his trompe l'oeil of game birds and game still-lifes. Paintings depicting hunting gear like the present work can be considered his masterpieces. These types of trompe l'oeil still-lifes were developed shortly after the appearance of illusionistic pictures of game and were frequently painted by artists such as Philips Angel, Cornelis Biltius, Anthonie and Johannes Leemans. Through this work, Biltius demonstrated his ability to experiment in the type of paintings associated with his aforementioned contemporaries. Biltius executed the present piece with his usual attention to detail creating a very "believable" trompe l'oeil.
In addition to the monumentality in scale of the present painting, this work also has a particularly prestigious provenance dating to the 18th century when it was in the possession of Henry Blundell, a distinguished connoisseur and patron of the arts residing in Ince Blundell Hall near Liverpool. Blundell travelled to Italy on many occasions and purchased paintings by artists like Sebastiano Ricci. He also patronized his contemporary artists such as Reynolds and collected a vast number of antique and contemporary sculptures.
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