William, 8th Viscount Midleton, by 26 February 1890, in. no. 9;
Thence by descent at Peper Harow, Surrey, to his grandson, George, 2nd Earl of Midleton, 1945 (but not included in his sale at Christie's, 26 October 1945;
Anonymous sale ("Property of a Nobleman"), London, Christie's, 10 June 1994, lot 6 ;
With Richard Green, London;
From whom acquired by the present owner.
In this majestic canvas Monnoyer has constructed an elaborate architectural setting with a sumptuous vase of flowers at its heart. The large bouquet is a seasonal fantasy that spreads out from and overflows the historiated antique vase. Here more than in perhaps any other of his compositions Monnoyer uses the elements of classical architecture to set off and contrast with the sumptuous blooms. The vase itself is tucked into a space created between the low stone platform behind and an elaborately carved bracket (or modillion) and a filleted slab at the right. The large white peonies and smaller roses are the first to catch our eye and lead us across the canvas, while the richer stronger colored flowers lead us further into the composition. The neutral stone of the column base, pedestal and standing column create a staid background rhythm that contrasts with the irregular curling stems and leaves.
Monnoyer painted Still Life with Flowers in a Sculpted Urn in 1796 when he was in England. He first went to London in 1690 with Charles de La Fosse and a group of other painters who were invited by Ralph Montagu who had been Ambassador Extraordinary to Louis XIV. Two years later he returned to continue the decoration of Montagu House and then stayed until his death in 1699. During that period he was as sought after as he had been in France working with French and English artists to provide decoration and independent paintings for a variety of noble families, including the Earl of Carlisle and the Duke of St. Albans.
Still Life with Flowers in a Sculpted Urn is noted as being in the possession of the 8th Viscount Midleton by 1890. However it is possible it had been in the family for many years before. In 1765 William Chambers renovated Peper Harow, the family house, which was still in possession of the Midletons until the late 20th century. Chambers was trained in the academies of Paris and Rome and introduced this new taste into British architecture. The reconstructed Peper Harow would have provided a perfect setting for a painting by Monnoyer, and it is possible that the 3rd Viscount Midleton, who was a collector, could have acquired the Still Life with Flowers in a Sculpted Urn at that time.
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