Jacob van Hulsdonck
- Jacob van Hulsdonck
- An elaborate basket of flowers and a tazza with grapes, on a table top
- oil on panel, with an added 1 in. strip along the bottom
- 22 3/4 by 38 3/8 in.; 57.8 by 97.5 cm.
From whom acquired in 1981 by the present collector.
Hulsdonck was born in Antwerp and moved at an early age to Middelburg before returning to his native city. Though details of his artistic training are unknown, in Middelburg he is likely to have come into contact with Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, who was the preeminent flower painter in the city at that time. Back in Antwerp, he became a Master in the Guild of Saint Luke in 1608. While many of his paintings show close affinities with those of Osias Beert the Elder, Hulsdonck would surely have been aware in Antwerp of the works of Jan Brueghel the Elder, and his innovations in the rapidly developing genre of still life painting. Indeed, the prototype of the present composition most likely originated with Jan Brueghel the Elder and is known in a number of variants by his son Jan Brueghel the Younger and other artists in their circle. The Brueghel prototype, however, depicts flowers in both the basket and on the tazza whereas, here, Hulsdonck has substituted green and purple grapes. The wicker basket overflows with spring blooms including tulips, peonies, jonquils, irises, fritillaries (of which a Crown Imperial is seen at top left), anemones, roses, lilacs, and lilies.. A bunch of grapes and other flowers are scattered on the table top with a beetle, a butterfly, a dragonfly and a sprig of rosemary. Hulsdonck’s pure flower still lifes are more simple and restrained, depicting a limited number of blooms and, in some cases, only a single type of flower.1 They come closer to the tradition of Bosschaert, possibly reflecting his early influence in Middelburg. In this work, however, the greater number and variety of flowers depicted, and the overall exuberance of the arrangement, are closer in spirit to the more elaborate floral compositions of Jan Brueghel the Elder.
We are grateful to Dr. Fred G. Meijer of the RKD/Netherlandish Institute for Art History, The Hague, for confirming this painting to be by Hulsdonck, based on a photograph. He dates the painting to the 1620s. This work is also accompanied by a photo-copy of a letter from Ingvar Bergström, dated Goteborg, 10 March 1981, also confirming it to be by Hulsdonck and dating it to slightly earlier circa 1615-20. He concludes that: “The Basket of Flowers and Tazza of Grapes is in my opinion to be understood as a tour de force, as a capital work within Hulsdonck’s oeuvre, in which he comes particularly close to Jan Brueghel and perhaps even meant to enter into competition with that great master.”
1. For example, Carnations in a Glass, signed, oil on panel, 13 ¼ by 9 5/8 in., Heinz Collection, Washington, D.C., see Still Lifes of the Golden Age, Northern European Paintings from the Heinz Family Collection, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C. 1989, cat. no. 20, reproduced.