Lot 35
  • 35

Emil Carlsen

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Emil Carlsen
  • Still Life with Pottery Jars
  • signed Emil. Carlsen- and dated 1903- (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 25 by 30 1/4 inches
  • (63.2 by 76.2 cm)


The artist
Private collection (sold: Christie's, New York, December 11, 1981, lot 91)
Thomas Colville Fine Art, Guilford, Connecticut (acquired at the above sale)
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1982


New York, Vance Jordan Fine Art, Quiet Magic: The Still-Life Paintings of Emil Carlsen, October-December 1999, pp. 31-32, cover illustration, also illustrated pl. 22
New York, Vance Jordan Fine Art, Poetic Paintings: American Masterworks from the Clark and Liebes Collections, October-December 2001, n.p., illustrated pl. 4


Michael Quick, “Living with Antiques: A Collection Where East Meets West,” The Magazine Antiques, November 2001, vol. 160, no. 5, p. 684, illustrated pl. VII
Kim Lykke Jensen, Soren Emil CarlsenSkagen Painter of Manhattan, Gylling, Denmark, 2008, p. 46, illustrated fig. 28


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes, Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is in lovely condition and seems to be clean. The canvas has an old wax lining. The lining is still stabilizing the cracking in the lighter paint of the large pale vase. There are no visible damages or retouches. Although some of the original pigment reads slightly strongly under ultraviolet light, there seem to only be a few tiny retouches to the cracking in the large pale vase. The work can be hung in its current state, or the wax lining could easily be reversed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Still Life with Pottery Jars, painted in 1903, belongs to the phase of Emil Carlsen’s career, in which his most successful compositions were defined by an overriding sense of restraint and control. In the carefully-constructed set piece that is Still Life with Pottery Jars, each element inhabits the canvas as both a powerful individual presence, and  an integral element of the overall composition. An atmosphere of quiet equilibrium pervades the seemingly informal design, as Carlsen deftly juxtaposes the smooth, reflective surfaces of the lustrous glass, ceramic, metal and porcelain vessels, and the more imperfect, natural textures of the fruit and nuts. Dark, muted, or neutral tones define the picture’s background and shallow middleground and act as a foil to emphasize the light effects which glint off rich glazes and delicate glass. With deliberation, Carlsen works with a limited palette of colors that range from inky black to bright white punctuated with yellow–orchestrating shapes, textures and brilliant surfaces into a scene of silent harmony. The muted tonality of the work recalls the influence of the era’s most radical artistic figure, James McNeill Whistler, while the yellow lemon peel curling over the edge of the table and delicate blue and white Chinese cup reference seventeenth century Dutch still life painting.  “Each piece asserts a personality of its own from the dominating presence of the smooth and swollen white jug to the demure Chinese teacup (a reoccurring image in several  paintings) to the unassuming, iridescent jar that stands alone at the right side of the canvas deliberately maintaining the picture’s sense of equilibrium” (Andrea Dale Smith, Selections from the Libby & Bill Clark Collection, New York, 2001, p. 39) In his landmark study on still life painting which he dedicated to Carlsen, Arthur Edwin Bye considered the artist the most gifted American still life painter of his time. Bye felt his work had the power to invoke a truly profound experience. He wrote, “…objects have a more mystical….classic.” (Pots and Pans, Princeton, New Jersey, 1921, p. 215)