Lot 112
  • 112

HORATIUS PAULIJN | Still life with musical instruments and a songbook, with the bust of the Medici Venus and a large feathered helmet

30,000 - 40,000 GBP
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  • Still life with musical instruments and a songbook, with the bust of the Medici Venus and a large feathered helmet
  • signed on the sealed document: Horatius Paulijnus Pinxit
  • oil on canvas
  • 50.7 x 38.5 cm


Private collection, Esher, Surrey;
With Brian Koetser, London, 1962;
With Th. Brod, London;
With Edward Speelman, London, by 1976 (from whom stolen, 16 August 1976, with a notice in Weltkunst, December 1976, p. 2177, and later recovered);
With Silvano Lodi, Munich and Milan, from whom acquired.


London, Brian Koetser Gallery, Paintings by Old Masters, 17 October – 16 November 1962, no. 32;
Rotterdam, Kunsthal, At Home in the Golden Age, 9 February – 18 May 2008, no. 6;
Nuremberg, Auf AEG, Gute Kunst? Wollen!, 19 September – 17 October 2015.


W. Bernt, Die Niederländischen Maler und Zeichner des 17. Jahrhunderts, Munich 1979, vol. II, cat. no. 964;
E. Gemar-Költzsch et al., Holländische Stillebenmaler im 17. Jahrhundert, Lingen 1995, vol. III, p. 774, cat. no. 307/1, reproduced;
A. van der Willigen and F.G. Meijer, A dictionary of Dutch and Flemish Still-life painters working in oils, 1525–1725, Leiden 2003, p. 158;
H.-J. Raupp (ed.), Niederländische Malerei des. 17. Jahrhunderts der SØR Rusche-Sammlung, vol. 5, Stilleben und Tierstücke, Münster/Hamburg/London 2004, pp. 190–93, cat. no. 40, reproduced in colour;
W. Pijbes, M. Aarts, M.J. Bok et al, At Home in the Golden Age, exhib. cat., Zwolle 2008, pp. 6, 37, cat. no. 6, reproduced in colour.


The canvas is lined, the paint surface is clean, and the varnish is clear. Inspection under ultraviolet light is somewhat impeded by the opaque varnish but reveals a band of retouching along the upper margin, less than 1 cm. wide, and some older, fine retouchings in the hair, face and neck of the marble bust to reduce the appearance of craquelure. There are a couple of other small spots in the edge of the musical sheets, and in the background upper left, but the painting appears to be largely untouched and in very good overall condition.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This high-quality still life is one of very few identified works by Horatius Paulijn, an artist about whom little is known. He is believed to have worked in both England and Denmark, but appears to have spent the majority of his career in Amsterdam, where he was until 1674, before setting off for the Holy Land in 1675. He never travelled further than Hamburg, however, where he is known to have been that same year. Among the mass of papers, including an almanac, a songbook and a certificate in English, upon which Paulijn has signed his name in full, is a marble bust modelled on the Medici Venus (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence) – a 1st century BC marble copy of a late Hellenistic bronze sculpture, that was found in Rome in the early 17th century. The full-length sculpture was heralded almost immediately as one of the most beautiful examples of ancient statuary, and many replicas were made, along with painted, drawn and printed depictions.

Almost uniformly illuminated, the marble bust and the pale documents are highlighted by contrast with the Classical architecture and in particular the rich oriental carpet on which they are placed. The neutral background also serves to make the rather extraordinary, richly-feathered helmet stand out even more – the wispy fronds juxtaposed with the hard plasticity of the bust. This sort of elaborately-plumed helmet is found in two paintings by Juriaen van Streeck of a similar period of circa 1670.1

While its presence here, along with the busts and the sober Classical setting, grants the composition an air of noble connoisseurship, the still life is undoubtedly a vanitas – the luxurious objects in somewhat of a state of disarray a commentary on the transience of worldly goods, fame and learning. Alternatively, the bust of Venus, positioned centrally and turned away from these trifles, may also be interpreted as a kind of timeless ideal of beauty and purity triumphing over the more temporary trappings of vanity.

1 York Art Gallery, York, inv. no. YORAG:57; and Pushkin Museum, Moscow, inv. no. Ж-2533.