Lot 11
  • 11

Juan van der Hamen y León

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Juan van der Hamen y León
  • Still life with a basket of apricots and cherries, vases of flowers, and hanging branches of mirabelle and sloe plums
  • oil on canvas


Private collection, Rioja, Spain since the 1930s;

Thence by family descent until sold Madrid, Sala Retiro, 12 June 2001, lot 361, for €615,500;

Whence believed to have been acquired by the present owner.


W.B. Jordan, Juan van der Hamen y Léon and the Court of Madrid, exhibition catalogue, New Haven & London 2005, pp. 274-6, reproduced fig. 18.6.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: This painting has a recent lining and stretcher, with a recent restoration. The character and texture of the craquelure has not been flattened, and old narrow stretcher bar lines can still just be seen. A veil of old varnish has been left in the background where the warm ground might be too visible if that were fully removed. There is some thinness in a few places such as the further basket of cherries for instance, and in the shadows within the weave of the baskets, these have been retouched as have the cherries, slightly. Occasional other retouchings can be seen under ultra violet light: a small slanting mark by the upper left corner, a narrow line along the base and upper stretcher bar lines and a few minor scattered touches elsewhere in the background. The luminous brushwork of the hanging fruit and leaves as well as the strength of the great still life on the ledge has been finely preserved over time against the dark background, with very minor intrusion by any outside intervention. 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

"…he surpassed Nature in drawing, colouring and composition…

Antonio Palomino quoting Montalbán ‘For Everyone’ (Para todos…, Madrid 1638)."   

Datable to the late 1620s, this imposing still life was painted by Juan van der Hamen towards the end of his short career, whilst working in the employ of Philip IV at the court in Madrid. In a little over a decade, the artist transformed the art of still life painting in Spain begun by his predecessor Juan Sánchez Cotan to establish a genre that would flourish in Spain for the remainder of the 17thcentury and beyond.


As pointed out by Dr. William Jordan, Van der Hamen often painted his still lifes in pairs or sets for maximum decorative effect. Whilst the majority of these are today long dispersed, Dr. Jordan has suggested that the present work was in all probability conceived as a pair to a Kitchen Still Life today in the collection of the Marqueses de Marañon, Madrid (see fig. 1).1 Both compositions share in common a highly symmetrical arrangement, with a central basket flanked either by an arrangement of vegetables or vases of flowers, and both compositions display a horror vaccui, the upper reaches of the present work filled with hanging branches of fruit, its counterpart with suspended strings of fruit and vegetables reminiscent of the compositions of Sánchez Cotan. Yet in contrast to the compositional similarities, the two paintings reflect differing social households, for one is a modest kitchen still life with everyday produce, the other a courtly still life with arrangements of flowers in expensive Venetian glass vases as well as a choicer selection of fruits. This interesting social distinction between the two works is also reflected in aesthetic terms within the paintings as described by Dr. William Jordan:


‘The scintillating visual interaction of small, spherical forms (the apricots and cherries in the basket and the plums on the hanging branches) plays a fitting counterpoint to the heavier rhythms of the other work.’


As is common in the work of Van der Hamen throughout the 1620s, the artist repeated particular motifs within his still lifes. The distinctive compartmented basket seen in the present work can also be found in the artist’s painting of Still Life with Basket of Apricots and Cherries, a Basket of Figs, and a Plate of Apples, signed and dated 1629 and today in a private collection, Madrid.

We are grateful to Dr. William Jordan for endorsing the attribution to Van der Hamen following first hand inspection.

1. Oil on canvas, 76.2 by 112.4 cm., see op. cit., p. 277, reproduced fig. 57.

2. See the exhibition catalogue, Juan van der Hamen y Léon and the Court of Madrid, New Haven & London 2005., p. 273, no. 56, reproduced.