Oil on canvas: 59 x 46,5 cm;
Expertise: We would like to thank Mr. Fred Meijer from the RKD, The Hague, who has confirmed the attribution.
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Picart is know as a painter of flowers and still lifes, but according to Florent Le Comte (1655 – 1712) he also painted a few landscapes. (‘Cabinet des Singulariez d’architecture, peinture, sculpture et graveure …’ 1699).
From the archives with correspondences of Matthijs Musson 15981678), the international art dealer from Antwerp, one learns that our painter had his name gallicized: Piekart and Pikaert became Picart.
Ambrosius Francken the Elder, uncle of Hieronimus II and Frans Francken II, was married to a Clara Pickaert and according to Fred Meijer from the RKD in The Hague, it is quite possible that Jean Michel Picart was a pupil in the Francken studios. His apprenticeship was not registered by the Antwerp painter’s guild of Saint Luke, however.
Before 1635 (according to Jan De Maere already about 1625), Picart had moved to Paris where he remained for the rest of his life.
In Paris, Picart became a member of the Academy of St Luke in 1640 and of the Académie Royale in 1651. He was appointed court painter to King Louis XIV in 1671 and held this position again in1679 and in 1682. At the palace of Versailles the bedroom of the King, of the Queen and of the King’s Mother were all decorated with paintings by Picart, as were bedrooms of the King’s Mother at the Louvre, the Palais Royal (both in Paris) and the palace of Fontainebleau.
Despite the great age to which he lived – especially by 17th century standards – the number of paintings known today by Jean Michel Picart is not very high, no more than a few dozen. There are only two dated paintings known. According to Fred Meijer quite a few of the examples published in 1974 by Michel Faré in ‘Le grand siècle de la nature morte. Le XVlle siècle’ as by Picart are wrongly attributed to him.
This small number of paintings known today may have been due to the division of our painter’s attention between commercial activities and painting. In Paris, Picart became an important art dealer. He had a very broad range of paintings: Flemish and Dutch landscapes, hunting scenes by Snyders or small religious scenes; he employed young painters for the production of copies or of original works; he also dealt in Venetian and Bolognese paintings.
As to his own artistic production, the great majority of it are floral bouquets, mainly in vases, in a rather wide range of formats.
The simple flower still lifes, at first in glass vases, such as our painting, later in richer materials (lapis) date from the first half of his Parisian years. Progressively, Picart freed himself from the influence of his Flemish precursors, such as Jan Brueghel and Daniel Seghers. Once he was away from the immediate Antwerp milieu, Picart appears to have moulded his own individual style, which seems to have commanded an eager and close following in Paris: for instance works by Jacques Samuel Bernard and early paintings by François Habert.
In the second half of his career large, lavishly waving bouquets seem to have been the artist’s preference. According to Fred Meijer, Picart’s work must have been a considerable source of inspiration for the great master of French flower painting of the later seventeenth century, Jean Baptiste Monnoyer (1636 – 1699), who was to take Picart’s lavish abundance a stage further. Monnoyer was also of Flemish origin, but he had left his birthplace Lille already at a very young age tor Paris.
According to Jan De Maere in his Dictionary and to Claudia Sa lvi in ‘D’après nature.
La nature morte en France au XVlle siècle’, published in the year 2000, it was Monnoyer who had influenced his elder colleague Picart.
The present painting is a simple flower bouquet in a glass vase, c1early painted by Picart during the early stages of his Parisian career, probably in the 1630s or 40s.
The fallen petals of flowers, laying on the wooden ledge around the base of the vase, are typical of Picart.
According to Claudia Salvi it would be naïve to think that only those still lifes by Picart representing f1owers in vases of lapis lazuli with guilded decoration would have been in the French royal collection. Others in simple vases, described as ‘bocal’ , ‘flacon’ or ‘pot’ (bowl, flask or jar) are also mentioned.
It is a striking, vivid and playful example of his work.