PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
signed, upper right: J. V. Meulen. and dated on the sheet music, lower right: 1654
inscribed on two sheets of paper: MORS / OMNIA / VINCIT (Death Conquers All); and VANITAS / VANITATUM / ET OMNIA / VANITAS (Ecclesiastes 1:2, Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity)
oil on panel
With William R. Drown, London;
With Bengt Rapp, Stockholm, 1958;
Ponce Museum of Art, Puerto Rico, accession no. 65.0536, by 1965;
Anonymous sale ("Property of an Institution"), New York, Christie's, 18 May 1994, lot 71;
There purchased by the present collector.
J. Bernström and B. Rapp, Iconographica, Stockholm 1958, pp. 87-90, cat. no. XII, reproduced no. XI, reproduced p. 89 (detail of the signature);
J. Held, Catalogue I Paintings of the European and American Schools, Ponce Museum of Art, Puerto Rico 1965, pp.184-185, reproduced p. 263, fig. 78;
J. Held, R. Taylor and J.N. Carder, Museo de Arte de Ponce, Fundación Luis A. Ferré, Catalogue, Paintings and Sculpture of the European and American Schools, Ponce Museum of Art, Puerto Rico 1984, p. 312, reproduced p. 313;
F. Meijer and A. van der Willigen, A Dictionary of Dutch and Flemish Still-life Painters Working in Oils, 1525-1725, Leiden 2003, p. 206.
Dutch painter Jan Vermeulen specialized in vanitas still lifes, of which the present work is a fine example. He often included musical instruments, large open folio volumes, and tankards in his compositions, this elaborately detailed painting is unusual for the artist being the only known dated still life in his oeuvre. One of the leading vanitas painters in 17th century Haarlem, his works were highly regarded for their immaculate realism. Here we see the artist's remarkable ability to replicate the effects of light on various surfaces, absorbed by the smooth, porous surface of the bone and dry, curling papers while in contrast reflecting brightly from the gleaming jewelled crown and shimmering pearls beside them.
Listed in the 1651 Haarlem guild records under the name Johannes van der Meulen, he is is also identifiable with the Monogramist IVM.1
We are grateful to Fred Meijer for endorsing an attribution to Vermeulen on the basis of photographs.
1. See Meijer 2003 under Literature, op. cit., p. 206.
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