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Pieter (1597) Claesz (1597 - 1661)

Lot 38: Pieter Claesz. Probably Berchem 1596/7 - 1660 Haarlem , A still life with an overturned silver tazza, a silver plate with a partly peeled lemon and an olive, with walnuts and hazelnuts on a table draped with a green cloth oil on oak panel


July 4, 2007
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item


signed with monogram on the knife lower centre: PC oil on oak panel


measurements note 39.8 by 56 cm.; 15 3/4 by 22 in.


Antwerp, Antwerpsche Propagandawerken, Tentoonstelling schilderkunst (2e Reeks) , 10 August - 22 September 1935;
Béziers, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Exposition des Collections Privées , 1967, no. 25.


M. Brunner-Bulst, Pieter Claesz. der Hauptmeister des Haarlemer Stillebens im 17. Jahrhundert: Kritischer Oeuvrekatalog, Lingen 2004, pp. 178 and 243, cat. no. 69, reproduced.


M. Vicolié;
Gravin Bertier de Sauvigny, Antwerp, 1935;
Thence by descent to M.P. de Bertier;
With Edward Speelman Ltd., London, 1990;
With Richard Green, London, 1996;
Acquired from the above by the present owner.


This masterpiece of design has been dated by both Martina Brunner-Bulst (see under Literature) and Fred. G. Meijer to 1636, Claesz.'s finest period of semi-monochrome 'breakfast pieces' (ontbijtjes). The simple, pyramidal yet natural composition in which a very small number of objects are intimately grouped around a dominant central motif, in this case the diagonal tazza, is entirely typical of Claesz.'s mature period of the 1630s. The tazza itself reappears in a number of other panels from the mid- to late 1630s, for example: in The Hague, Mauritshuis, dated by Brunner-Bulst to 1636;υ1 in Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, dated to 1636;υ2 and in Oxford, Ashmoleum Museum (The Daisy Linda Ward Bequest)υ dated to 1637.υ3 The tazza may have been formerly owned by Claesz.'s fellow townsman, Willem Claesz. Heda, as it appears in his elaborate still life dated 1633 in Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum;υ4 alternatively, it may be that the tazza belonged to a Haarlem silversmith who loaned it to each artist.

Claesz.'s still lifes are quite different from the 'additive' compositions of his predecessors in Haarlem, such as Nicolaes Gillis, Floris van Dijck and Floris van Schooten, which are taken from a high viewpoint and incorporate a wide variety of colours and objects. Claesz's paintings are instead characterised by a low viewpoint and a unifying and tonal colour scheme, which in the 1630s was usually limited to warm browns and olive greens in the background and cloth (the latter here extended into the still life itself by the single olive), and interspersed only by the cool grey of his chosen metallic object(s) and the yellow of a lemon. His still lifes are not simply superficial depictions of random objects but are intended to convey a deeper meaning, usually alluding to the transience of human life or perhaps allegorising the five senses; here the 'excess' exemplified by the oysters and fallen silver tazza placed nearer the back of the table is superceded by the frugality of the nuts and peeled lemon (which was used to temper wine).

Brunner-Bulst points out that a copy, incorporating the tazza in reverse but with different surrounding objects, was sold New York, Christie's, 10 October 1990, lot 91 (as 'School of W.C. Heda').υ5
1 See P. Biesboer et al., Pieter Claesz. Master of Haarlem Still Life, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle 2004, p. 123, cat. no. 28, reproduced.
2 Inv. no. 985A; see L.B. Parshall (trans.), Picture Gallery, Berlin. Catalogue of Paintings, Berlin 1978, p. 108, reproduced.
3 Inv. no. A452; see M. Brunner-Bulst, under Literature, p. 246, cat. no. 77, reproduced.
4 Inv. no. os 57-3; see Painting in Haarlem 1500-1850. The Collection of the Frans Hals Museum, Ghent 2006, p. 495, cat. no. 199, reproduced.
5 See Brunner-Bulst, op. cit., p. 243.

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