Lot 41
  • 41

Ottmar Elliger the Elder

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Ottmar Elliger the Elder
  • Still life with Lobster, Fruit and a Nautilus Shell
  • signed lower right Otmar Elliger Fecit Ano 1667
  • oil on panel


With Sackville Gallery, London, 1924, by whom sold to
Mrs. Hilma Wallin, Stockholm;
Anonymous sale ("The Property of a Gentleman"), London, Christie's, December 13, 1985, lot 86;
Acquired by the present collector in 1986.


I. Bergström, "Ottmar Elliger och Willem Kalf," Konsthistorik Tidskrift, pp. 41-45, reproduced p. 42, fig. 1;
I. Bergström, Dutch Still Life Painting in the Seventeenth Century, New York 1956, p. 287, reproduced figures 238, 289-290.
L. Grisebach, Willem Kalf 1619-1693, Berlin 1974, p. 264, under cat. no. 112, copy b.


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, simonparkes@msn.com , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This panel is not cradled and the reverse is in its original condition. There is a slight warp to the panel from left to right which is not disturbing and is which does not give rise to instability to the paint layer or to the panel. The paint layer is more or less clean and varnished. The still life seems to be conspicuously unabraded and all of the details and glazes are all fully intact. The unique treatment of the skin of the lemon is also very well preserved and effective. The black background in the upper portion of the picture is slightly thin and there are retouches which address some slight abrasion or graininess, which is to be expected. If the picture were to be cleaned and the retouches applied with slightly more care, it is possible that more sharpness would be acquired to the picture however, the picture could certainly be hung as is. No effort should be made to straighten the curve of the panel since the paint layer is perfectly stable as a result.
"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."

Catalogue Note

Despite having studied with Daniel Seghers, Elliger's most direct influence came from Willem Kalf.  Indeed, many of the central elements in this composition are derived from another by Kalf, formerly in the Kaiser Friedrich-Museum (destroyed 1945). The tilted Wan-Li bowl, roemer, peeled lemon rinds and glass beaker are also included in Kalf's prototype, however in the present work Elliger revises the earlier example and sets himself apart from Kalf with the inclusion of the lobster and grapes arranged around the tilted bowl in the left half of the composition.1 

Elliger's ability to provide highly detailed optical effects stands out beautifully in this extremely well preserved panel. Here, for example, the Red Admiral butterfly seems to float beside the informal still-life arrangement, thus expanding the picture plane and emphasizing the seeming randomness and spontaneity of an arranged scene. Additionally, the materiality of Elliger's work is undeniable. The grainy and studded texture of the lemon rinds are treated with thick impasto paint application and physically rise from the panel, as if taken directly from nature. This is only a slightly more complicated composition than others from the same period as Elliger maintains his affinity towards relatively simple still life compositions, arranged vertically and in a predominantly asymmetric and random pattern.

According to Ingvar Bergström, Elliger studied with Daniel Seghers in Antwerp. He is first recorded in the city in 1666, a year before the present picture was completed. In 1670 he became the court painter to the Elector of Brandenburg in Berlin.  He would remain in that city until his death in 1679 at the age of forty-five.

1.  I. Bergström, Dutch Still Life Painting in the Seventeenth Century, New York 1956, p. 289, fig. 237.