This previously unknown work is closely comparable in its style and technique to the remarkable series of portrait drawings by the enigmatic draughtsman, Jan (or Johannes) Thopas, about whom very little was known prior to the revelatory exhibition held in 2014 at the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, and the Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam. The use of dense, black ink washes in contrast to other areas of silvery-grey, is highly characteristic of Thopas's work, as is the elaborate drawn frame surrounding the main image. Until now, though, such frames were only known in the context of portrait drawings1
, and this is the only example that has so far come to light of a still-life by Thopas. We are grateful to Peter van den Brink, co-organiser of the 2014 exhibition, who has confirmed the attribution, having seen the drawing in the original.
The vanitas still life, in which the compositional elements all allude to the brevity or futility of human life and endeavour, was a very popular genre in Dutch art of the 17th century, and the symbolism of the image would have been well understood by all who saw it.
See also lot 93 for a characteristic portrait by Thopas.
1. R. Ekkart, Deaf, Dumb & Brilliant. Johannes Thopas, Master Draughtsman, exhib. cat., Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, and Amsterdam, Rembrandt House Museum, 2014, pp. 65-73, 119-122, nos. 26-34