richard green

Jan Frans van Dael

  • Jan Frans van Dael - Flowers in a alabaster vase with fruit on a stone ledge
    Jan Frans van Dael Flowers in a alabaster vase with fruit on a stone ledge Signed and dated 1814
    Oil on canvas
    41 3/4 x 32 3/8 in
    106 x 82.2 cm
    Full details

    BP 2



    Antwerp 1764 - 1840 Paris


    Still life of roses, peonies, tulips, auriculas, an iris and other flowers in an alabaster vase with fruit on a stone ledge


    Signed and dated lower right: I.VANDAEL. / . 1814

    Oil on canvas: 41 ¾ x 32 3/8 in / 106 x 82.2 cm

    Frame Size: 48 x 38 ½ x 2 ½ in



    Drouot, Paris, 9th March 1951, lot 33

    Private collection, France

    Richard Green, London, 1991

    Private collection, USA



    Jan Frans van Dael was one of the most highly regarded painters of still lifes of flowers and fruit in Paris during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Van Dael had moved to Paris from his city of birth, Antwerp, at the age of twenty-two, after successfully having studied architecture at the Antwerp academy. In the French capital he established himself as an artist and soon received important commissions for decorative paintings, for instance in the castles of Saint Cloud, Bellevue and Chantilly. During the 1790s he started to establish himself as a painter of still lifes of flowers and fruit, supported and encouraged by the leading painter of this genre of the time, Gerard van Spaendonck (1746-1822). In 1793 he received the privilege to work in an apartment in the Louvre. He exhibited paintings at the annual Paris Salons many times and received various medals and distinctions over the years, both in France, and in Belgium and the Netherlands. He also presided over a studio at the Sorbonne University, where he trained several pupils, Christiaan van Pol, Elise Bruyère and Adèle Riché among them. After his death in March 1840, he was buried at Père Lachaise cemetery, next to van Spaendonck. His success is reflected in the prestige of his patrons, who included the Empress Josephine, as well as Marie-Louise Bonaparte, and subsequent French kings Louis XVIII and Charles X.


    Jan Frans van Dael’s still lifes of flowers and fruit are highly refined paintings. The artist was a master in rendering the substance and texture of his subjects. He bathed his still-life compositions in a bright but rather soft, even light that allowed him to expose every intricate detail. Through a subtle overlapping of his flowers and distribution of light and shadows, he attained a fully convincing impression of depth in his compositions.


    In the present work, van Dael pours a cascade of light and colour down the left-hand side of the painting, the dramatic red, blue and white of the poppies and hyacinths giving way to the pastel colours of the roses. The right hand side, by contrast, is dominated by the rich purples and reds of tulips and peonies partly in shadow. Van Dael has a fondness for rounded forms, reflected in the densely-petalled roses, peonies, anemones and auriculas. They echo the shapes of the peaches and glistening, translucent grapes. All the flowers in this bouquet were established favourites in French gardens by 1814. Although he spent most of his career in Paris, van Dael was trained by the Dutch-born Gerard van Spaendonck and worked in the tradition of the celebrated seventeenth century Netherlandish flower painters, particularly Jan van Huysum (1682-1749), whose lavish palette and baroque glamour is very much an inspiration.  


    Interestingly, once van Dael he was content with a still life that he had created, he would not hesitate to paint a second version of it entirely at the same level of quality, often with a year or even two years between versions. The present painting is very close in spirit, with a few variations in the flowers and butterflies, to a work dated 1810 that was in the collection of Louis XVIII, and which was acquired from him by the Louvre in 1891. Another version, dated 1811, is in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.









Antwerp 1764 – 1840 Paris

Jan Frans van Dael, with Redouté and the Spaendonck brothers, ranks among the most important flower painters of the second half of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century. All of them were born in the Low Counties and spent successful careers in Paris. Van Dael was born in Antwerp in 1764, the son of a joiner. From 1776 he studied architectural draughtsmanship at the Antwerp Academy, but preferred to paint, which he did secretly at night to avoid his father’s disapproval.

In 1786 van Dael left for Paris and was employed on decorative schemes for the châteaux of St Cloud, Bellevue and Chantilly. He soon turned to flower painting, influenced by Gerard van Spaendonck, with whom he probably studied. Van Dael’s delicate and precise paintings soon gained important patrons and he was unscathed by the turbulent politics of the era. In his long career, van Dael worked for the Empress Josephine at Malmaison; for the Empress Marie-Louise, Louis XVIII and Charles X. He exhibited at the Paris Salon 1793-1833 and from 1796 had apartments in the Louvre, moving to the Sorbonne in 1806.

Van Dael was a member of the Academies of Antwerp and Amsterdam and exhibited in Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels and The Hague. He amassed an important collection of contemporary and seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish still lifes, for he regarded himself as an heir of that great tradition. Van Dael’s exquisitely painted flowers were based on botanical study, and according to a fellow botanist, van Hulthem, he grew flowers in his garden to serve as models.

Van Dael also made a few pure landscapes, religious and allegorical pictures, as well as lithographs. He occasionally painted portraits, often of fellow artists. Jan Frans van Dael died in Paris in 1840 and was buried in Père-Lachaise next to his mentor Gerard van Spaendonck.

The work of Jan Frans van Dael is represented at the Château de Malmaison; the Château de Fontainebleau; the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam; the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille and the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp.
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