PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, SPAIN
Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós (1846-1930), by whom given the grandfather of the present owners;
Thence by descent.
Jan van Kessel was a member of the Brueghel dynasty of painters, for he was Jan Brueghel the Elder's grandson on his mother's side. He was almost certainly trained by his uncle Jan Brueghel the Younger, whose work he copied.1 Even in his formative years he seems to have specialised as a painter of flower pieces. When he was accepted into the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1644-45 he was specifically referred to as a flower painter, and when only a few years later in 1649 Erasmus Quellinus's portrait of him was engraved, it bore a caption describing him as a 'highly esteemed painter of flowers'.
In its simple yet closely observed naturalistic detail and its bright, fresh colours this small panel perfectly illustrates the hallmarks of the style that brought Van Kessel so much success. In a simple glass vase stand a large pink rose, which dominates the composition, a blue iris, narcissi, an open poppy and other flowers; around and on them a red admiral, a dragonfly, a honeybee, a spider and numerous other insects swarm. Beneath, a pocket watch and key and a small peach sit on a ledge beside a few drops of fallen water. It is a minutely observed document, seemingly faithful in every detail to the arrangement it represents.
The date of this panel accords with a set of ten flower still lifes on copper, seven of which are likewise dated 1652, that are usually considered the artist's greatest achievement in the depiction of flowers. Like the present lot, the set of coppers have old Spanish provenance having previously been in the collection of the Marqués de la Nieves and they are widely considered, indeed, to have been originally executed for a Spanish patron. Two are now in the Heinz collection,2 another pair in the collection of the Marqués de Goubea in Spain, and another sold in these Rooms, 5 December 2007, lot 24. They are larger in scale (approx. 76 by 60 cm) but characterised by a similar level of refinement as this panel. A further 1652-dated panel, of almost exactly the same size as the present lot, was sold London, Christie's, 8 December 2008, lot 5, for £361,250.
Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós (1846-1930) was one of the leading benefactors to the Museo del Prado. Together with the sheets from the Spanish Royal collection his bequest forms the core of the Prado's drawing collection. He also donated five paintings by Goya.
1. The reference comes from Jan Brueghel II's own diary: J. Denucé, Brieven en Documenten betreffend Jan Brueghel I en II, Antwerp 1934, p. 157.
2. See I Bergström, Still lifes of the Golden Age. Northern European Paintings from the Heinz Family Collection, exhibition catalogue, Washington 1989, pp. 112-4.
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