Lot 18
  • 18

Clara Peeters

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Clara Peeters
  • Slices of butter on a Wanli 'kraak' porcelain dish, a stack of cheese on a pewter plate, with a jug, a fa├žon-de-Venise wineglass, a bun, crayfish on a pewter plate, a knife and shrimp on a table
  • signed lower left: 'CLARA.PEETERS' and inscribed on the knife handle: SPES and FIDES
  • oil on panel
  • 16 x 22 1/2 inches


Private collection since the early 20th century;
By whom anonymously sold, London, Christie's, 12 December 2001, lot 6, for $715,258;
With Richard Green, London;
From whom purchased by Bernard Palitz.


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This beautifully detailed picture is in excellent condition overall. The exceptionally well preserved paint film has only a few small retouches to old flake losses following the wood grain, primarily in the background. A few passages with normal age-related increased transparency of the paint have been addressed with restoration glazes. The varnish remains clear with no discernible discoloration. The horizontally grained wood support has a very mild vertical convex warp and appears to retain its original thickness based on the rough surface and wide bevels on the back. A small wood butterfly adhered to the back upper left corner is an old repair to the panel.
"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

When this picture reemerged on the art market in 2001 (see Provenance), it was one of the most important additions in recent years to the limited corpus of Clara Peeters, among the greatest still life specialists of the seventeenth century. Comprising a carefully staged assemblage of food, the composition relates directly to a group of five pictures with almost identically constructed stacks of cheese. These are in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (ex-Carter collection, see P. Hibbs Decoteau, Clara Peeters and the Development of Still Life Painting in Nothern Europe, Lingen 1992, p. 181, cat. no. 22, plate. IX); ex-Westermann collection, Amsterdam (ibid., no. 23); private collection, Amsterdam (ibid., no. 24); ex-A. von Welie collection, The Hague (ibid., no. 29); and a picture recently acquired by the Mauritshuis (formerly with Richard Green, London, 1998).

While none of the so called “cheesestack” compositions are dated, Professor Hibbs Decoteau argues for a dating of the group to the 1620s and early 1630s, owing to their similarly low viewpoint, compressed compositional structure, and obvious iconographic similarities. When last sold, it was noted that Hibbs Decoteau considered the present example closest to the Westermann and Von Welie versions, noting though that the slightly less exaggerated viewing angle relates closest to the Westerman version, which she dates along with the present picture to the late 1620s. Of note in these works, visible especially in the Mauritshuis picture and here, is Peeters' inclusion of a self portrait on the metal top of the earthenware jug. She was among the first northern still life painters to begin the practice of including subtle self portraits in the reflections of object surfaces. 

The knife in the foreground- a bruidsmessen- is included in no less than five of Peeters' paintings, ranging in date from 1611 to the 1630s1,  and is a type which was widely produced in the Low Countries in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. They are generally thought to have served ceremonial functions at weddings, as most examples are engraved with a female recipient's name as well as a didactic motto. The present example, for instance, contains the words SPES and FIDES, an abbreviation of the Latin phrase ‘spes, amor et fides’, which translates to ‘hope, love, and assurance’. Examples of these ornamental knives are housed in the Rijksmuseum, the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts, Brussels, and the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.

Additionally, a number of the other objects painted here are repeated in other compositions by Peeters. Notably, the Venetian wineglass with butterfly stem is found in her Still life with seafood and wine (Poltava Art Museum, Hibbs Decoteau cat. no. 16); the pewter plate of crayfish (ibid., no. 16) and a still life of fish in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Antwerp (ibid., no. 27); as well as the short ceramic Friesen/Westehall jug behind the stack of cheese (ibid., no. 29), and the still life with an artichoke in a private collection, Germany (ibid., no. 21).

1. Hibbs Decoteau 1992, cat. no. 29; Still life with a pie (Prado, Madrid); Still life with fruit and flowers in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Hibbs Decoteau 1992, cat. no. 20); Still life with a pie (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the former Richard Green "Cheesestack.")