Lot 34
  • 34

Georg Flegel

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Georg Flegel
  • Still life with a dish of oysters upon a brazier, an artichoke in a dish resting upon a loaf of bread, together with a cooked capoon and a knife, fork and slices of bread on plates and a silver condiment dish upon a table top
  • oil on copper beech panel


Anonymous Sale, Berlin, Galerie Bassenge, 27 May 2011, lot 6026.

Catalogue Note

The unadorned presentation and unpretentious simplicity of so many of Georg Flegel's still life paintings make him one of the most individual practioners of the art in the seventeenth century.  He was moreover one of the earliest still life painters, and he had a widespread influence on younger artists.  The contemplative character of his works, and their essential stillness, is remarkable when one considers that he was painting in the Protestant refuge of Hanau throughout the ravages of the Thirty Years War that caused so much destruction throughout most of Northern Europe, and it is tempting to see his work as an introverted  reaction to these horrifying contemporary events.

The son of a Moravian shoemaker, Flegel moved to Vienna after 1580 and became the assistant of Lucas van Valckenborch, for whom, for example, he painted the still-life elements in his large canvases of the seasons. He followed Valckenborch to Frankfurt, then an important centre for art dealing and publishing, where he came into contact with other still-life painters working there such as Pieter Binoit and Daniel Soreau. 

It is not easy to date Flegel's still lifes, for of his surviving works only those painted between 1635 and 1638 are dated. The simple symmetrical arrangement of the five principal elements of the still life, bisected by elements such as the knife, is consistent throughout his career, but while some individual elements can be found in other works, others seem to be unique to this painting. The salt or condiment dish, with its distinctive sphinx feet, is also found in a signed and dated Still life with a fish of 1637 in the Historisches Museum in Frankfurt. Similarly, the knife and fork may have belonged to a set owned by Flegel, for the former recurs in a Still life with a dish of eggs in the Staatsgemäldesammlung, Aschaffenburg.2 The capon is found in many of Flegel's collaborations with Valckenborch, but also recurs as an individual motif in later works, such as a Still life with capon and flowers, of the early 1630s.3 The motif of an object resting upon a loaf of bread, here the dish with the artichoke, is likewise to be found in a number of other paintings from throughout his career. The motifs of the artichoke itself, however, as well as the dish of oysters do not find ready parallels in his œuvre, and appear to be unique. The use of the brazier may also be restricted to this one example, although another burner is to be found in a panel of 1637 formerly in the Fürstenburg Princely Collections.In all of these works, Flegel displays his characteristic interest in the depiction of textures and light, combined with a precise attention to the smallest details. The subdued tonality and the distinctively low key palette are typical of Flegel's maturity in the late 1620s and 1630s, as is the use of a panel made from copper beech.

The attribution to Flegel has been confirmed by Prof. Dr. Kurt Wettengl following first-hand inspection of the original, and a copy of his expertise, dated October 2011 accompanies this lot. Prof. Wettengl suggests a date of execution to around 1635 for this picture, and will be including it in his forthcoming Gesamtverzeichnis of the works of Georg Flegel. 

1. See K. Wettengl in the catalogue of the exhibition, Georg Flegel 1566–1638. Stilleben, Stuttgart 1993, revised edition 1999, p. 149, no. 58, reproduced. 
2. A-D. Ketelsen-Volkhardt, Georg Flegel 1566–1638, Berlin 2003, p. 235, cat. no. 41, reproduced in colour plate 14.
3. Present whereabouts unknown. Sold Vienna, Dorotheum, 17 October 1995, lot 195.
4. Wettengl, op. cit., 1999, p. 146, cat. no. 55, reproduced.  This picture was sold in these Rooms in 1982.