Top 25 Fine Art


1. The Tears of St. Peter, El Greco

Artist / Maker: Domenikos Theotokopoulos El Greco (1541-1614)
School: Spanish
Origin: Spain
Place: Toledo
Object Type: oil on canvas
Period: Felipe II
Actual Date: c.1580-1589
Century: 16th century

Size: 108 x 89.6 cm
Materials: Oil, Canvas
Museum Accession Number: B.M.642

Painted in 1580s, this is the first of several versions of the subject by El Greco.  It came from the collection of the Conde de Quinto and was purchased reluctantly by John Bowes in 1869 for 200 francs (about £8).  El Greco's work was little appreciated at the time. According to Saint Luke's Gospel, Saint Peter denied Jesus on the night before his death, thus fulfilling Christ's prophecy. This is a picture of hope as well as sorrow, and forgiveness and well as repentance. Get past the exaggerated sentimentality and the "poached egg eyes" as Brian Sewell described them, and this painting is a deeply moving work.  Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times in the Chief Priest's courtyard, just as Jesus had foretold.  Jesus had gone to his death before Peter had had time to say sorry.  Peter now is inconsolable, for the loss of the friend he worshipped, and for his terrible cowardice and treachery. What Peter does not know yet, though we the viewers know, by looking in the background of the painting, is that Christ has risen.  Peter will see Jesus again, and will be forgiven. This image emphasises the sacramental validity of penitence and the authority of Saint Peter's successor, the Pope. These were controversial issues during the Counter-Reformation period.

Read More

2. The Rape of Helen, Giuseppe Salviati

Artist / Maker: Follower of Francesco Primaticcio (1504-1570)
School: Italian
Origin: Italy
Place: Bologna
Object Type: oil on canvas
Actual Date: c.1533-1570
Century: 16th century
Size: 188.6 x 155.6 cm.
Materials: Oil, Canvas
Museum Accession Number: B.M.76

Helen was a princess from Greek mythology famed for her beauty.  She was abducted by Paris, a Trojan Prince, and carried off to Troy by sea. The Greeks came to rescue her and so instigated the Trojan War.  In this painting we can see Helen in the centre, carried from a ship by Trojan soldiers and surrounded by her maidens who are striking dramatic poses indicating despair.

Primaticcio was an Italian Mannerist artist who worked at the French Court of Fontainebleau for King Francois I.  The term Mannerism comes from the Italian word ‘maniera’, meaning style or elegance.  For Mannerist painters, deliberately exaggerated colour combinations, and elongated limbs were features of their style.

Read More

3. The Nativity, Jacques Stella

Artist / Maker: Jacques Stella (1596-1657) 
School: French
Origin: France
Place: France
Object Type: oil on copper
Period: Louis XIII
Actual Date: 1639
Century: 17th century
Size: 65.4 x 80.6 cm
Materials: Copper, Oil 
Museum Accession Number: B.M.60

The composition of this picture is classical and the accurately represented classical architecture is given marked prominence. The figure of St. Joseph owes much to Poussin a close friend of the artist. The flesh of the Christ and Our Lady is very smooth and porcelain-like. This classical picture depicts the quiet moment of wonder shared by Mary and Joseph at the birth of Christ. The broken architecture in the foreground is not just a picturesque detail but also a symbol for the end of pagan religion. Stella later became Cardinal Richelieu's official painter.  Read More

4. Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740), Francesco Trevisani

Artist / Maker: Francesco Trevisani (1656-1746) 
School: Italian
Origin: Italy
Place: Rome
Object Type: oil on canvas

Actual Date:
 1700
Century: 18th century
Size: 134.3 cm x 98.5 cm.
Materials: Oil, Canvas 
Museum Accession Number: B.M.70

Pietro Ottoboni became a cardinal in 1689. As well as this he was also Vice-Chancellor of the Church and Cardinal Protector of France.  He was the most important patron of the arts in early 18th century Rome, gathering about him the most prominent musicians, writers and artists of his day.  With his death during the papal conclave which elected Benedict XIV the Ottoboni family became extinct. In the portrait the cardinal appears to be the epitome of refinement and correctness. The bronze bell on the table is moulded with his cardinal's hat and perhaps his coat of arms.  The coat of arms with double-headed eagle appears clearly on the back of his chair. This portrait is one of the artist's finest and was painted in the 1690s, the bridge between the grand style of Italian Baroque and later 18th century portraiture.  Trevisani was principally a painter of religious subjects and of portraits.  The majority of his few portraits are in Britain:  They are mostly of nobles and gentlemen who had made the Grand Tour.
Read More

5. The Bucintoro returning to the Molo on Ascension Day after the Ceremony of Wedding the Adriatic, Giovanni Antonio Canal Canaletto

Artist / Maker: Giovanni Antonio Canal Canaletto (1697-1768) 
School: Italian
Origin: Italy
Place: Venice
Object Type: oil on canvas
Actual Date: c.1733
Century: 18th century
Size: 237.5 x 156.3 cm.
Materials: Oil, Canvas 
Museum Accession Number: 1982.32.1/B.M
    
One of a pair of Canaletto’s purchased by the museum in 1982. The Bucintoro (the State Barge) is returning to the quayside in front of the Doge's Palace, Venice, with the Doge and members of the Senate after the ceremony of the Sposalizio del Mare (the marriage of the Venetian Republic to the Adriatic Sea).  This ceremony took place annually on Ascension Thursday and during it, to symbolise the marriage. This painting and its pendant were painted in the 1730s and are among the six largest known paintings by Canaletto. Read More

6. Prison scene, Francisco Jose y Lucientes de Goya

Artist / Maker: Francisco Jose y Lucientes de Goya (1746-1828)
School: Spanish
Origin: Spain
Place: Madrid
Object Type: oil on tin plate
Period: Carlos IV
Actual Date: c.1793-1794
Century: 18th century
Size: 42.9 x 31.7 cm.
Materials: Tin-plate, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.29

One of the best known of the museums pieces is Goya’s Prison Scene. Painted under the stimulus of the events of the Peninsular War, Goya developed into the leading painter of his age, producing visionary and macabre pictures of great originality, as well as important series of etchings and lithographs.  It is certainly known for making a political point, but chiefly remembered for the careful orchestrated lighting and its mood of reigned melancholy. This painting is a restrained but effective indictment of man deprived of all human dignity.  Dressed in only a few rags and cruelly constrained by heavy shackles, the prisoners droop like broken men.  One may well imagine that they are forgotten and will be left to languish and to rot. Prisoners and prisons are common motifs in Goya's works. This subject reflects his interest in the representation of the passions and physical suffering, while also recalling Enlightenment concerns with penal reform and civil rights. Read More

7. Gibside from the North, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Artist / Maker: Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
School: English
Origin: England
Place: England
Object Type: watercolour on paper
Period: George III
Broad Date: Regency
Actual Date: 1817
Century: 19th century
Size: 45.1 x 27.4 cm.
Materials: Paper, Watercolour
Museum Accession Number: 1985.10/B.M

The collection holds four Turner paintings, two of which depict Gibside. Gibside Estate had been part of Bowes estate since the early 18th century. This watercolour with its pendant, a view from the south, was acquired directly from the artist by the 10th Earl of Strathmore, father of John Bowes.  Near the centre of the watercolour, on high ground, is Gibside Hall itself, now an empty shell. Turner includes the Column of British Liberty in both watercolours of Gibside, a constant reminder of the struggle Britain faced during the Napoleonic era. Read More

8. Portrait of Olive Boteler Porter, Anthony van Dyck

Artist / Maker: Anthony van Dyck

School: Flemish
Place: Netherlands
Object Type: Oil on canvas
Actual Date: 1630 - 1640
Century: 17th century 
Size: 72.4 x 61 cm
Materials: Canvas, Oil
Museum Accession Number: O.88

In 1866 John Bowes purchased this painting from Madame Lepautre, one of his regular dealers in Paris, as one of a pair of paintings attributed to Sir Anthony van Dyck, the most important artist at work in England in the 17th century. The sitter was simply referred to as ‘a lady’. 
Over the years, however, the painting’s attribution became uncertain, thanks to the picture’s condition. The picture was obscured by an old, discoloured varnish, as well as paint loss to the sitter’s left eye and hair. The sophisticated drapery, colouring and facial expression typical of Van Dyck’s female portraits of the 1630s were therefore overlooked, due to the painting’s poor overall appearance. But thanks to the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC Your Paintings comprehensive photographic record of oil paintings in public ownership in Britain, the painting came to the attention of art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor, who was carrying out research into Van Dyck’s lost paintings. 
A sympathetic programme of conservation has now removed the disfiguring varnish layers, revealing the tonal subtleties of the sitter’s skin and her white satin dress, together with the quality of the drawing. The painting has been examined by a number of Van Dyck scholars who agree that a previously unknown work by Anthony van Dyck has been hiding in The Bowes Museum’s picture store for many years.

Read More

9. Mowers, Charles-Emile Jacque

9.  Mowers, Charles-Emile Jacque
Artist / Maker: Charles-Emile Jacque (1813-1894)
School: French
Place: France
Object Type: oil on panel
Period:
 Napoleon III
Actual Date: c.1865
Century: 19th century
Size: 27.3 x 21.9 cm.
Materials: Panel, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.735

Jacque a distinguished member of the Barbizon school, was fascinated with the effects of light on the landscape and often painted rustic pastoral scenes. He is also famous for his etchings and engravings and worked alongside the likes of Felix Buhot.  This small jewel of a painting, however, shows him depicting a peasant at work in the sunlight. They are all wearing hats to protect from the sun which gives the impression that it is beating down on them quite fiercely. The mower was a motif common amongst the Barbizon artists, such as Millet and Pissarro.
Read More

10. Beach scene at low tide, Eugene-Louis Boudin

Artist / Maker: Eugene-Louis Boudin (1825-1908)
School: French
Place: France
Object Type: oil on panel
Period: Napoleon III
Actual Date: 1867
Century: 19th century
Size: 47.9 x 31.1 cm.
Materials: Panel, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.689

Boudin produced many works depicting the French coastline and this scene is a typical example of his later work, in which urban tourists are portrayed in small groups along the beach. The broad brushstrokes and rapid marks on the canvas capture perfectly the windy day. The artist has chosen reds, blues, and browns for the dresses of the women; colours which are echoed by their surroundings. Boudin's observations of the costumes and manners of the vacationing aristocracy are preserved in this painting and in many similar works, which established his reputation as a fashionable painter. In 1862 Eugene Isabey urged Boudin to paint the beaches of Trouville, Deauville and Normandy.  At their peak these resorts attracted the Empress Eugenie and many elegant members of Parisian middle classes.  One of the major forerunners of Impressionism, he was considered by Claude Monet to have been his first master. Read More

11. Landscape with figures and goats, Adolphe-Joseph-Thomas Monticelli

Artist / Maker: Adolphe-Joseph-Thomas Monticelli (1824-1886)
School: French
Place: France
Object Type: oil on panel
Period: Napoleon III
Actual Date: c.1853
Century: 19th century
Size: 59.4 x 40 cm.
Materials: Panel, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.391

Although Monticelli had been trained to work in a neoclassical manner, when he moved to Paris in 1846 he was quick to abandon his previous academic style.  He choose instead to work with a different kind of painting in which he boldly experimented with colours using very thickly applied paint. The foreground of the painting shows four goats grazing in a field and behind them three figures. In this picture the colours are of medium tone and are laid down on top of a scumbled black and dark brown ground which is allowed to show through in many places.  This latter style was an important factor in revealing to Vincent van Gogh what could be achieved by new and daring uses of colour, and how it was actually possible to 'draw' with paint.  It is noted to be one of the more controversial pieces purchased by Josephine. Read More

12. Mercury and Argus, Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes

Artist / Maker: Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819)
School: French
Place: France
Object Type: oil on panel
Period: Louis XVI
Actual Date: 1793
Century: 18th century
Size: 24.5 x 32.4 cm
Materials: Panel, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.437

This landscape of a crisp, sunbathed classical landscape inspired by Greece and Italy proves a worthy setting for the deeds of gods and heroes. The background takes precedence over the subject-matter of Mercury and Argus, who  could almost be mistaken for a pair of Arcadian shepherds. Valenciennes was a great admirer of the landscapes of Poussin and Claude, and was seminal in getting landscape accepted as a serious subject by the Academy and the Salon.

Read More

13. After the thunderstorm, Achille-Etna Michallon

Artist / Maker: Achille-Etna Michallon (1796-1822)
School: French
Origin: France
Place: France
Object Type: oil on canvas
Period: Louis XVIII
Actual Date: 1817
Century: 19th century
Size:
 79.3 x 99.1 cm
Materials: Oil, Canvas
Museum Accession Number: B.M.348

Michallon completed a number of paintings and sketches of trees struck by lightning. This painting depicts a rocky wooded landscape with three male peasants discovering the body of a woman which has been struck by lightning. This dramatic and colouristically satisfying painting captures the turbulence of the atmosphere, which remains as the storm departs. It was predicted that one day Michallon would become a 'Poussin moderne'.  However, his early death prevented him from reaching full maturity as an artist. This painting relates closely to some of his work entered into the ‘first prix de Rome de paysage historique’ displayed in the Louvre and completed in the same year. Michallon went on to win the final stage of the competition and received coveted scholarship to travel to Rome studying at The Academy of France in Rome. His great skill was to unite the classic and natural landscape in one.
Read More

14. Fruit and Flowers, Henri Fantin-Latour

Artist / Maker: Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)
School: French
Origin: France
Place: France
Object Type: oil on canvas
Period: Napoleon III
Actual Date: 1866
Century: 19th century
Size: 60 x 44.1 cm
Materials: Canvas, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.514

This still life is lively and fresh-looking.  The flowers give the impression of having been casually arranged. One wonders whether the fruit is at rest or whether some of it is meant to appear to have some momentum left in it, as it tumbles out of the overturned basket. The brushwork of the artist describes the surface texture of flowers and fruit. The clarity and firmness of the forms differentiate this work from many of his other still lifes which are handled more loosely, more fuzzily and, perhaps, more to a stereotyped formula.The same vase and basket appear in several of the artist's paintings. Among Fantin-Latour's friends were Whistler, Frederick Leighton Manet and several of the leading Impressionists.  His still lifes were highly popular, particularly in England and helped him to earn a good living, allowing him to care for his ill father and sister.  However, he felt that his real contribution to art was to be found in the ethereal, Romantic or Proto-Symbolist fantasies he painted, often inspired by the musical works of composers such as Wagner, Berlioz and Schumann. Read More

15. Barnard Castle, Thomas Girtin

Artist / Maker: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
School: English
Place: England
Object Type: watercolour on pap
Period: George III
Broad Date: Late Georgian
Actual Date: c.1798-9
Century: 18th century
Size: 27.5 x 34.4 cm
Materials: Watercolour, Paper
Museum Accession Number: B.M.1061

Girtin was an English painter and a close friend and adversary of J M W Turner. Both are highly regarded landscapists of the period, Turner also painted Barnard Castle. Painted on one of his sketching tours of the North of England . To the left of the picture are the ruins of the castle and the bridge over the River Tees.  In the foreground a man can be seen fishing. In the latter quarter of the eighteenth century Girtin developed a bolder romantic style, something that influenced later artists. Read More

16. The Triumph of Judith, Luca Giordano

Artist / Maker: Luca Giordano (1634-1705)
School: Italian
Origin: Italy
Place: Naples
Object Type: oil on canvas
Actual Date: c.1703
Century: 18th century
Size: 103.5 x 71.1 cm.
Materials: Oil, Canvas
Museum Accession Number: B.M.20

This scene depicts the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes found in the Old Testament. The story tells of Judith, a Jewish widow who is dismayed with her fellow countrymen, for neglecting to fight the invading Assyrian army led by the general Holofernes. She manages to gain favour with Holofernes by promising him information on the Israelites, she triumphs by  gaining access to his tent where he lay in a drunken state and she cut off his head. The loss of their leader prompted the invading Assyrian army to leave Israel. Luca Giordano depicts the Jewish heroine displaying the head of the Assyrian general, Holofernes, to her people. Her maid, Abra, stands behind her while the body of Holofernes is shown lying on the rocks in the foreground. The Israelites, who were on the point of surrender, are shown in amazement whilst the Assyrian soldiers flee in terror. Giordano was renowned for his speed of execution and gift of improvisation. He made numerous preparatory oil sketches such as this one for frescoes and the decorations for the Certosa di San Martino in Naples have been most notably associated with this painting. Read More

17. The Harnessing of the Horses of the Sun, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Artist / Maker: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770)
School: Italian
Origin: Italy
Place: Venice
Object Type: oil on canvas
Actual Date: c.1731
Century: 18th century
Size: 98.1 x 73.6 cm.
Materials: Oil, Canvas
Museum Accession Number: B.M.51

Tiepolo was commissioned by Carlo Archinto to decorate the ceiling of his palace in Milan. One of the five elements of this illustrates the story of Apollo and Phaethon from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Phaethon's father, Helios, drives the chariot of the sun across the heavens every day.  Phaethon begs Helios to be allowed to drive the chariot and Helios reluctantly agrees.  Phaethon cannot control the horses.  They veer off course, too near to earth, scorching it, creating deserts and forest fires, and turning men black.  Eventually Jupiter throws a thunderbolt which hurls Phaeton from the chariot to his death. Tiepolo depicts Helios trying to dissuade Phaethon from riding across the sky, as horses are harnessed to the golden chariot. He has also included the marble columns of Apollo’s palace.  Some scholars have dated this sketch as late as c.1733-6, a few years after the completion of the ceiling. It's probably a variation of the theme of the ceiling depicting Apollo and Phaethon.  Read More

18. Master of the Virgo

Artist / Maker: Master of the Virgo inter Virgines (c1475-c1500)
School: Dutch
Place: Holland
Object Type: oil on panel
Actual Date: c.1490's
Century: 15th century
Size: 218.8 x 196.3 cm.
Materials: Panel, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.168

The central panel shows Christ, between the two thieves receiving the sponge soaked in vinegar. To the left of the foreground is the Virgin, supported by St. John and surrounded by 5 women. Mary Magdalene stands kneeling at the foot of the cross, next to a group of mounted soldiers. The gates of Jerusalem and Judas, who hanged himself in remorse for his betrayal of Christ, appear in the landscape background. The Deposition is represented in the right panel. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are helped by others to take Christ’s body from the cross for burial. Read More

19. A Miracle of the Eucharist, Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta

Artist / Maker: Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta (1392-1450)
School: Italian
Origin: Italy
Place: Siena
Object Type: tempera on panel
Actual Date: c.1425
Century: 15th century
Size: 40.6 x 26.7 cm.
Materials: Tempera, Panel
Museum accession number: B.M.52

Sassetta was commissioned to create this piece for the feast of Corpus Christi. A Carmelite lay-brother, about to receive communion sacrilegiously, has been struck dead.  The consecrated Host is bleeding, indicating perhaps that the lay-brother had doubted the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It was taught by the Church that a person accepting communion bread and wine during Mass must believe they had been transformed during the ceremony into body and blood of Christ. The scene was intended as a teaching tool and dire warning for the congregation kneeling below the altar.
Sassetta's skill in creating architectural space is evident even on this small scale, and can be compared with Florentine experiments with perspective of this date.  Read More

20. Allegory of Innocence and Guilé, Maerten van Heemskerck

Artist / Maker: Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574)
School: Dutch
Place: Holland
Object Type: oil on panel
Century: 16th century
Size: 92.7 x 70.8 cm.
Materials: Panel, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.624

Van Heemskerck spent three years in Italy, 1532-35, seeking inspiration from Italian renaissance painters, particularly the art of Michelangelo.  Besides painting in oils, he painted stained glass windows, and was a prolific print maker. The subject of the painting is a personification of a verse from St. Matthew's Gospel (Chapter 10, verse 16) 'Be ye, therefore, wise as serpents and harmless as doves'. Subjects like these were painted for public buildings, as a reminder of standards expected from people in high office. The figure is posed and stylish in dress, her elegant jewellery is a fine example of a Renaissance goldsmith’s work.The gesture of her hand and intent gaze address the beholder and reinforce the didactic intention of the painting. These were typical of a Northern artist's assimilation of Italian Mannerism.  Both figure and dove were re-used by Heemskerck in other compositions.  The artist mainly produced portraits and religious subjects.  A pupil of Jan van Scorel, it was under his guidance he developed a fine style and an impressive reputation. It has been said that this popularity drove a rift between the two artists and that Scorel eventually dismissed van Heemskerck from his studio. Read More

21. Dutch Men-of-war at anchor, Simon de Vlieger

Artist / Maker: Simon de Vlieger (c.1600-1653)
School: Dutch
Place: Holland
Object Type: oil on panel
Actual Date: c.1650
Century: 17th century
Size: 102.2 x 125.7 cm.
Materials: Panel, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.98

The man-of-war is almost certainly Admiral Tromp's flagship 'Amelia' and the Admiral himself might be the figure standing in the boat, being rowed to his ship. ‘Amelia’ was used a number of times in his paintings even, perhaps, after the ship itself had ceased to exist. Simon de Vlieger is one of the finest of Dutch marine painters.  The hull and rigging of the principal ship are beautifully drawn.  The reflection of the same ship in the water is excellently painted.  The aerial perspective is masterful - the sea, from the bottom of the painting to the horizon, occupies only a few inches of the picture-space yet an impression of great distance is created.  This is achieved by allowing form to become gradually less detailed and intangible. This is conveyed mainly through weather, atmosphere and  mood of the sea and the sky. There is a sense of immense space - the sky is vast and the broad sea seemingly boundless as it disappears beyond the horizon.This must be a late work when the artist was at the height of his powers and painting mainly calm. Read More

22. Reading lesson in a convent, Francois-Marius Granet

Artist / Maker: Francois-Marius Granet (1775-1849)
School: French
Place: France
Object Type: oil on canvas
Period: Napoleon I
Actual Date: 1810
Century: 19th century
Size: 99 x 76.8 cm.
Materials: Canvas, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.500

Granet was pupil of Jacques-Louis David. At the age of twenty seven he went to Rome where this he stayed for many years.  He settled in France in 1826 becoming curator of the Louvre and then Director at Versailles.    A young girl is reading for an elderly nun, while a young nun looks on attentively and solicitously.  Although the room is austere and the mood of the principal characters earnest, the nun entering with refreshments in the background may be taken to indicate that the atmosphere is not joyless and that there will soon be relaxation and laughter. How economically the artist describes the interior of the room and how delicately the light from the window, evenly diffused by the white curtain, bathes and models the scene.  His treatment of the subject creates an air of stillness, calm and order.  He achieved this by using neo-classical tones of grey, green, terracotta red, blue and yellow.  Celebrated in his lifetime for paintings of interiors after his death he became a neglected artist. Only in recent years was there a revival of interest in his works, especially in his landscapes (both in watercolours and in oils), which herald the practice of open-air painting. 
Read More

23. Self Portrait, Francois-Saint Bonvin

Artist / Maker: Francois-Saint Bonvin (1817-1887)
School: French
Place: France
Object Type: oil on canvas
Period: Napoleon III
Actual Date: 1847
Century: 19th century
Size: 65.4 x 54.3 cm
Materials: Oil, Canvas
Museum Accession Number: B.M.444

Bonvin was a leading Realist artist the mid-to-late nineteenth century.  Although he was largely self-taught, his association with Francois Marius Granet was so helpful to him that he always considered Granet to have been his master. He executed this self-portrait early in his career when he had only just begun to experiment with painting in oil. The influence of Gustave Courbet is clear, particularly in the textured brushwork, dramatic light and candid intensity of his facial expression. Courbet was a friend of Bonvin and painted his portrait in 1846. Bonvin would have been able to learn from Courbet's technique while sitting as a model, and may have been inspired to attempt the same subject himself. Read More

24. Breakfast piece, Jacob van Hulsdonck

Artist / Maker: Jacob van Hulsdonck (1582-1647)
School: Flemish
Place: Netherlands
Object Type: oil on panel
Actual Date: 1614
Century: 17th century
Size: 65.4 x 106.8 cm
Materials: Panel, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.99

Jacob Van Hulsdonck first studied painting in Germany.  He later lived in Antwerp, Belgium, and became a master of still life painting.  His work often features arrangements of fruit, generally including brightly coloured plums, grapes and peaches. Hulsdonck, like other painters of still life, aimed to capture the true colour and texture of his subjects.  Such artists enjoyed studying the effect of light on the various surfaces of a variety of objects.
Hulsdonck obviously delighted in the beauty of his subjects.  He has captured every detail in the bread, fish and cherries.  Even small, delicate crumbs of meat are added to the edge of the platter of ham.
Chinese porcelain had recently begun to be imported in large quantities by the Dutch East India Company and this is one of the earliest depictions of it in use at a meal. Read More

25. Still life with Asparagus, Artichokes, Lemons and Cherries

Artist / Maker: Blas de Ledesma (1556-1593/8)
School: Spanish
Place: Granada
Object Type: oil on canvas
Century: 16th century
Size: 99.1 x 80 cm
Materials: Canvas, Oil
Museum Accession Number: B.M.146

At the centre of this highly stylised still life is a finely woven basket which Ledesma used many times. It is bulging with bundles of asparagus and artichokes. The objects are arranged symmetrically with almost geometric precession which provides the composition with a quiet harmony that does not detract from the enhanced realism of the objects composing it.  Blas de Ledesma was almost entirely a still life painter.  Little is known of his life beyond his being resident in Granada in 1602. Read More