Lot 10
  • 10

Jacob van Hulsdonck

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Jacob van Hulsdonck
  • A still life with artichokes, radishes, asparagus, plums, cherries and peaches in a basket, together with a ham and pig's trotters on pewter plates, a herring, a tongue and some butter on blue-and-white dishes, mulberries in a blue-and-white bowl, a knife, bread, cherries, grapes and a lemon with a broken berkemeyer glass, all on a table partly draped by a white cloth
  • signed lower left: VAN HULSDONCK . FE .
    and monogrammed lower right on the plate: IVH
  • oil on oak panel, the reverse prepared with gesso


In the possession of the grandmother of the present owner in the Middle-Rhine region of Germany, and believed to have passed to her by inheritance from her great-grandmother in Düsseldorf;
Inherited by the present owner in 1964.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden, who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is on a thin panel with a single joint, which has been quite recently reglued and backed with a strip of canvas. The whole large panel appears to have always remained perfectly flat, without any sign of movement or flaking. Three old cross bars have been removed. There is a line of retouching along the joint and other retouching along the top edge and in the upper right corner. Occasional other small retouchings are visible to the naked eye in the upper background, with a narrow retouching along the lower crease in the table cloth and a small touch on the Chinese blue and white bowl. The lower right corner seems to have had damp behind to judge from blanching in the thick old priming on the back and there is a wider patch of retouching in this lower right corner, but no loose paint evident and no sign of significant losses necessarily beneath the retouching. Other minor retouches can be found down the left edge. There are various pentimenti, in the roll of bread at lower left for example or the bowl with the pigs trotters, and the whole painterly treatment of the still life and its vivid fluid brushwork is magnificently intact. There is no trace of wear or overcleaning. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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

Hulsdonck's still lifes are characterized by very precise handling and extreme clarity of detail.  He delights in the variety of colours and surface textures in the foodstuffs and objects that he presents his viewer, who is reminded of the diverse delicious tastes and textures that await the diner.

This is an exceptionally lavish composition by Hulsdonck, incorporating many of the elements found in smaller, simpler pictures by him.  The high viewpoint suggests that it may pre-date most of them, but very few of his paintings are dated, so a coherent chronology would be hard to establish.
A remarkably similar composition on a panel of almost identical size, differing only in minor details, also monogramed on the plate lower right, was with Colnaghi in London, and exhibited in Vienna in 2002 (see fig. 1).1 In the present painting there is a pentimento in the bread roll in the lower left, which Hulsdonck has moved closer to the edge of the composition, allowing room for the broken glass to its right.  In the other version the artist painted the bread roll in the same position as here, without any evident pentimento, which suggests that the present picture pre-dates it and is therefore the prime version.  No further examples of the complete composition are known, and very few pictures of this scale by Hulsdonck have survived.

The Colnaghi picture was dated circa 1615 in the Vienna exhibition catalogue.2  A tree-ring analysis of the panels in the present panel conducted by Ian Tyers of Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd in October 2012 concludes that the most recent of the three planks of Baltic oak of which is composed was still growing in 1605, and that a felling date between circa 1611 and circa 1627 is likely.3  A dating of this painting circa 1615 is thus plausible, but it is unlikely to have been painted much earlier than that.   

1.  See S. Brakensiek, in Das Flämische Stilleben 1550-1680, exhibition catalogue, Lingen 2002, pp. 236-7, no. 78, reproduced p. 237, and in detail p. 223, as datable circa 1615.
2.  Idem.
3.  A copy of the report is available upon request, and will be supplied to the buyer.