Lot 70
  • 70

Martin Johnson Heade

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Martin Johnson Heade
  • Apple Blossoms in a Nautilus Shell Vase
  • signed M.J. Heade (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 21 by 17 inches
  • (53.3 by 43.2 cm)
  • Painted circa 1870-75.


Robert Brovaco Gallery, Montclair, New Jersey
Private collection, Florida (sold: Sotheby’s, New York, November 30, 2005, lot 155)
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale


Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Special Loan Exhibition, October 1969, no. 22


Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., The Life and work of Martin Johnson Heade, New Haven, Connecticut, 1975, no. 144, p. 241, illustrated
Brian T. Allen, "Martin Johnson Heade," in Barbara Wells Folsom, ed., A Private View: American Paintings from the Manoogian Collection, New Haven, Connecticut, 1993, p. 84
Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., The Life and Works of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, Connecticut, 2000, no. 398, pp. 132, 300, illustrated 


The canvas is unlined. There is frame abrasion at edges and fine surface cracking in the background. Under UV: there is inpainting to frame abrasion, a few pindots in the upper background, a few dots on the tablecloth, some of which appear to be the artist's original retouches.
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

Martin Johnson Heade began painting floral still lifes not long after he moved to New York City in 1858. Though he was new to the genre, his floral subjects received high praise from critics, one of whom wrote in the Crayon in 1860, "Mr. Heade ... gives us occasional glimpses of flowers and trailing vines—such exquisite groups—that we are almost tempted to wish that he were less successful as a landscapist" ("Sketchings: Domestic Art Gossip," September 1860, p. 264). Heade's focus shifted to several different types of flowers over the course of his life. He initially began painting roses in the early 1860s, and apple blossoms by 1865. In 1870 he began to depict the exotic orchids he observed on his trips to Central and South America and during the last two decades of his life, he painted sumptuous images of magnolia blossoms and Cherokee roses while in St. Augustine, Florida. Painted circa 1870-1875, Apple Blossoms in a Nautilus Shell Vase beautifully manifests the delicacy and sophistication of Heade's mid-career florals, which became more luxurious over time.  During this period, he painted his flowers with the same intensity of observation that he applied to the exotic hummingbirds and jungles of Brazil. Theodore Stebbins, Jr. notes that Heade "described each blossom and object with extraordinary fidelity. One of the reasons the blossoms and vases seem so powerful at times is that they appear to be individually, almost personally, considered" (The Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonné, 2000, p. 137). In the present work, an unseen light source emanating from the left side of the canvas illuminates the apple blossoms, giving them a sculptural quality that makes them the focal point of the composition.  The organic solidity of the flowers is juxtaposed with the delicacy of the translucent glass vase to striking effect. Heade’s keen attention to detail and technical mastery is evident throughout the composition – in the dark wood paneling, the lush velvet drape, ornately embroidered satin table cloth, and dolphin base of the nautilus vase.  The quality of the rendering of each pictorial element is not only a testament to Heade’s extreme skill at capturing various surfaces and textures, but also serves to engage the viewer and lead his or her eye through the painting.  Heade removes the apple blossoms from their natural environment with great success, and in the decorative seventeenth century Dutch still life tradition, juxtaposes them with the trappings of wealth and luxury that would have appealed to his upwardly mobile middle-class clients.