Anonymous Sale, Paris, Millon & Associés, 8 June 1998, lot 29; Private Collection, France.
This opulent still life reveals the influence of the work of Jan Davidsz. de Heem and suggests that although Craen was not recorded in Antwerp, he may been apprenticed there in the mid-1640s.1 In fact, very little is known about Laurens Craen's life prior to his appearance in Middelburg in 1649 and only about 20 works can be solidly attributed to his hand. He is first recorded as a member of the Middelburg painters guild in 1654, after trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to offer his services as a painter to Constantin Huygens and the court at The Hague. He was still in Middelburg in 1664 when his wife's death is recorded and his own death is recorded in the registers for 1670.
In the present work, the end of a wooden table partially draped in a plain green cloth is overwhelmed by the bounty on its top: pewter plates holding a variety of fruits and a lobster; two partially filled wine glasses and a porcelain ewer are compressed on the table top and begin to overflow its edge. The lobster's heavy claws dangle dangerously over the rim of the pewter plate, and the swallowtail butterfly adds additional weight to a branch that is already heavy with ripe apricots. Craen's distinctive technique of building up a grainy, studded impasto on the rind of the lemon and the husk of the lobster's claws adds additional texture and weight to the image, while the shelled hazelnut and husked oyster are suggestive of a vanitas interpretation.
1. A. van der Willigen and F. Meijer, A Dictionary of Dutch and Flemish Still-life Painters Working in Oils, 1525-1725, Leiden 2003, p. 68.
The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, firstname.lastname@example.org , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.
This large panel is seemingly comprised of a single piece of wood with no reinforcements on the reverse. The paint layer is stable and in beautiful condition.
The paint layer is quite glossy yet not unattractively so. The painting seems to be clean but all of the fine touches and details throughout are perfectly preserved and there is little doubt that this is a rare and spectacularly well preserved work of art. "This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."