With Eugene Slatter Gallery, London;
Acquired from the above in 1953 by Kunsthandel P. de Boer, Amsterdam;
With Jean Pollak, Paris;
With P. de Boer, Amsterdam, on commission from the above, 1976;
From whom acquired by Baron van Dedem at the Antiekbeurs, Delft, on 15 November 1976.
Amsterdam, P. de Boer, 13 March – 11 April 1982, and ’s-Hertogenbosch, Noordbrabants Museum, April – 30 May 1982, A Flowery Past, no. 71.
M.-L. Hairs, Les Peintres Flamands de Fleurs au XVIIe Siecle, Paris 1955, pp. 112 and 225;
M.-L. Hairs, Les Peintres Flamands de Fleurs au XVIIe Siecle, Brussels 1965, pp. 215, 217 and 390;
Weltkunst, 46 (19), 1976, reproduced on the front cover;
S. Segal, A Flowery Past, exh. cat., Amsterdam 1982, pp. 108–09, no. 71, reproduced;
M.-L. Hairs, The Flemish Flower Painters in the XVII Century, Brussels 1985, pp. 296, 483;
P.C. Sutton, Dutch & Flemish Paintings, The Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, London 2002, pp. 148–49, no. 30, reproduced;
F.G. Meijer and A. van der Willigen, A Dictionary of Dutch and Flemish Still-life Painters working in Oils 1525–1725, Leiden 2003, p. 123;
K. Ertz and C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan van Kessel der Ältere (1626–1679) Jan van Kessel der Jüngere (1654–1708) Jan van Kessel der ‘Andere’ (ca. 1620–ca. 1661). Kritische Kataloge der Gemälde, Lingen 2012, pp. 106 and 334, no. 573, reproduced fig. 101.
Although he was an enormously versatile and innovative painter, who painted animals, birds and insects, as well as interiors of picture galleries, allegories and fables, Jan van Kessel was primarily known to his contemporaries as a painter of flowers. When he was admitted to the Antwerp Guild of painters in 1644–45 he was unusually listed as a blomschilder (flower painter) rather than the normal schilder, perhaps already signifying his chosen speciaity. It seems that he must have received instruction from his uncle Jan Brueghel the Younger, who had taken over the running of his father’s studio after his death, and whose journals record that in 1646 he sold two copies by Kessel of one of his small flower garlands. His contemporary reputation, especially for his flower garlands, was considerable. Alexander Voet’s engraving of his portrait by Erasmus Quellinus, for example, describes him as a ‘very renowned esteemed painter of flowers’ (fig. 1).
In his design for this picture Van Kessel was undoubtedly influenced by the example of his grandfather, the great Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625). Although he would not have known Brueghel, for he was born the year after he died, Jan van Kessel’s connections to the family were to be very strong and last throughout his own career. His design here, for example, was clearly influenced by a small number of flower baskets painted by Jan Brueghel the Elder from the second decade of the seventeenth century. The best and earliest example is probably the Still life of a basket of flowers with flowers in a glass vase, painted in 1615 and today in the National Gallery of Art in Washington (fig. 2).1 This and another Flower basket with a glass of flowers of 1617, last recorded with Galerie de Boer in Amsterdam,2 seem to have the prototypes for a number of individual flower basket pictures, which continued to be produced in the studio after Jan Brueghel the Elder’s death in 1625. A closely-related and high quality example of these is the Flower basket by Jan Brueghel the Younger in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.3 Although he could not quite match the elder Brueghel’s level of refinement, Van Kessel here pays tribute to his example with a richness of colour and vitality that is all his own.
Even though he was painting some four decades after Jan Brueghel the Elder's originals, in a work such as this Jan van Kessel reveals himself as the last great protagonist of the Brueghel dynasty. Curiously, the present painting remains the only flower basket of any real quality in his known œuvre.4 Although he and his own studio produced many small coppers and panels with this motif, no other easel painting comes close to it in size or quality. This may, of course, reflect the demands of an individual commission which was not then repeated, but given how close it comes to the style of the Breughels, father and son, one might speculate how many other flower pieces, especially those in baskets, we now assign to the Brueghel family and workshop were in fact painted by his hand.
1 Panel, 55 x 89.1 cm. See K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, Cologne 1979, p. 606, cat. no. 293, reproduced in colour fig. 372. A workshop version was sold London, Sotheby’s, 11 December 1996, lot 267.
2 Ertz 1979, p. 611, cat. no. 322, reproduced fig. 371.
3 Panel, 47 x 68.3 cm. K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel the Younger, Freren 1984, pp. 449–50, no. 286, reproduced. More recently, Ertz (Jan Brueghel der Ältere. Kritischer Katalog der Gemälde, vol. III, Lingen 2008-10, p. 961, no. 453) has suggested that this may be the work of Jan Brueghel the Elder himself, perhaps with the assistance of his son. Other workshop examples were sold Amsterdam, Sotheby’s, 11 November 2008, lot 22, and London, Sotheby’s, 22 April 2004, lot 24.
4 Only the small panel now in the Museum in Angers, which is signed and dated 1664, comes close in terms of the complexity of design, but on a very much more modest scale. The influence of Brueghel seems less pronounced.
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