OLD MASTERS FROM THE VAN DEDEM COLLECTION
A. van der Hoeven, De bloemstillevens van Jan I van Kessel (1626–1679), doctoral diss., Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 2002, cat. no. 29 (as Jan van Kessel);
P.C. Sutton, Dutch & Flemish Paintings, The Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem, London 2002, pp. 152–53, cat. nos 31 and 32 (as Jan van Kessel and Gonzales Coques);
K. Ertz, with C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan van Kessel der Ältere 1626-1679, Jan van Kessel der Jūngere 1654–1708, Jan van Kessel der ‘Andere’ ca. 1620–ca. 1661. Kritische Kataloge der Gemälde, Lingen 2012, pp. 102 and 322, cat. no. 544, reproduced in colour p. 108, fig. 103 (as Jan van Kessel and ?Gonzales Coques, and as in its original frame).
The miniature format of this tiny oval copper takes nothing away from the precision of Van Kessel’s observation and brushwork, the blooms and reflections in the vase depicted with forensic accuracy. A member of the Brueghel dynasty of painters, Van Kessel almost certainly trained with his uncle Jan Brueghel the Younger. The delicacy and characterisation of these flowers on such a diminutive scale, however, strongly recall the exquisite still life miniatures of his grandfather, the great progenitor of Flemish still life painting, Jan Brueghel the Elder. It was the naturalism and fresh, lucid colours found in the present work that brought Van Kessel so much success, attested to by Erasmus Quellinus’ inscription on his engraved portrait of 1649: ‘highly esteemed painter of flowers’.
Just as Van Kessel quickly became specialised as a painter of flower pieces, Coques earned an esteemed reputation as a portraitist of small-scale, elegant single figures and groups. This portrait reflects Coques’ facility for working on a miniature scale on copper with the grace and fluency that won him the epithet ‘the little Van Dyck’, with whom he is also presumed to have worked and possibly travelled. The only securely attributed miniature portrait by Coques is that which dates to 1664, of almost identical dimensions to this oval, on copper, depicting Jan Baptista Anthoine.1 Several other miniature portraits, however, with which the present work also shares many qualities, have been attributed to Coques by way of comparison with that likeness.2 Though as yet unidentified, the sitter in this portrait bears a strong resemblance to the man in black standing on the left of the group portrait, thought to be the family of Melchior de Stanza (which also includes a self-portrait by Coques).3
We are grateful to Dr Marion Lisken-Pruss for confirming the attribution to Coques on the basis of a digital image and for proposing a date of execution of circa 1657–60.
1 Sold London, Christie's, 7 July 1995, lot 230 (as attributed to Coques); see M. Lisken-Pruss, Gonzales Coques (1614–1684): der kleine Van Dyck, Turnhout 2013, pp. 251–52, cat. no. 43a, reproduced in colour p. 373 (as Coques).
2 See Lisken-Pruss 2013, pp. 282–85, cat. nos U21–U27.
3 See Lisken-Pruss 2013, pp. 244–46, cat. no. 33; a version attributed to Coques and workshop (cat. no. 33c) reproduced p. 422.
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