JAN FRANS VAN DAEL
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 / 121.9 x 97.8 cm
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.