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Georg Flegel & Frederik van Valckenborgh
(Olmütz, Moravia 1566-1638 Frankfurt) and (Antwerp ca. 1566 – Nüremberg 1623)

“An elaborate Still Life of Fruit, Flowers and Vegetables and a Gentleman offering a Glass to a young Girl in an Interior”

Oil on canvas
114,5 x 173 cm
painted after 1600, most likely between 1610 and 1615.
More info

Notes

From the 1580s on, Flegel worked in the workshop of the painter Lucas van Valckenborch in Linz, where he was active as a ‘staffage painter’ adding fruit, vegetables, and flowers to such large compositions as banquet, market, or garden scenes. In 1592/93 the workshop moved to the wealthy commercial town of Frankfurt am Main. Flegel became a citizen in 1597 and remained there until the end of his life. Around 1600 the artist fully adopted the newly emerging genre of still life, collaborating closely with Lucas van Valckenborch and later with other members of the Valckenborch family. He created more than seventy still lifes on canvas and over 110 watercolours. Flegel is considered the most important exponent of early modern still-life painting in Germany, having developed his very personal style under the influence of Netherlandish art.

Attribution history:

1973 Article by Ingvar Bergström, ‘Flower-Pieces of Radial Composition in European 16th and 17th Century Art’, Album Amicorum J.G. van Gelder, The Hague 1973, pp. 22 – 26, pl. 1-11.

1977 Article by Ingvar Bergström, ‘Georg Flegel als Meister des Blumenstücks’, in Festschrift für Paul Pieper, Westfalen, 55 (1977), pp. 135 – 146.

1988 Sam Segal, A prosperous Past. The Sumptuous Still Life in The Netherlands 1600 – 1700, Amsterdam 1988, pp. 60-61.

1989 Exhibition catalogue Ingvar Bergström, Arthur Wheelock jr., Still Life of the Golden Age, National Gallery, Washington 1989, no. 15 (ill.), as Georg Flegel.

1989 Sale Sotheby’s London, Dec 6 1989, lot.no. 21, as Jeremias van Winghen (Brussels 1578 – Frankfurt ca. 1645). This attribution was based on advise of Sam Segal who singled out a small oeuvre of this painter in his book ‘A Prosperous Past’ and believed to recognize the hand of Van Winghen based on signed work of the painter.

1990 Expertise: prof. Ingvar Bergström:
As Georg Flegel (objects) and Martin van Valkenborch (figures and interior). Bergström compares several signed and known works of Georg Flegel and singles out the way the artist renders a large number of objects throughout the composition with a strong and fine feeling for the character of each material, particularly the glass, metal and porcelain. The artists’ personal technique can be witnessed in the long, thin strokes close by each other modelling the petals of the bouquet on the left. The bouquet as well as the Chinese plates with strawberries and cherries strongly remind of the flower piece by Flegel in the H. John Heinz III Collection, Washington DC, also containing identical flowers and a comparable enamelled white and gilt vase. The vegetables, fruits and the wicker baskets correspond to monogrammed work of Lucas van Valckenborch. Because Lucas was also known to frequently paint the figures in collaborative paintings with Flegel, it seems natural that the artists also worked together in the present picture. However, because the present picture can be dated after the death of Lucas Van Valckenborch in 1597, Bergström tentatively suggests that the interior and figures may be the work of Martin van Valckenborch, burgher in Frankfurt in 1596, where he died in 1612. Bergström dates the present picture ca. 1600 or at least several years later than the flower piece in the Heinz collection. The Heinz flowerpiece was dated slightly after 1595 based on what Bergström termed ‘a radial composition’ and the present picture is thought to be a further stage of development, displaying a less strongly felt radial composition on its way to be disorganized.

1993 Exhibition catalogue Kurt Wettengl, Hana Seifertovà [et al.], Georg Flegel – Stilleben, exh. cat., Frankfurt am Main 1993, p. 58 – 61, no. 9 (ill.), as Georg Flegel & Martin van Valckenborch. All of the afore mentioned arguments by Ingvar Bergström, published by him in a 1989 catalogue, are transferred into this catalogue entry.

1999 Kurt Wettengl, Hana Seifertovà [et al.], Georg Flegel – Stilleben, 1999, pp. 58-61, no. 9 (ill.), as Georg Flegel & Martin van Valckenborch (?). This catalogue is a revised edition of the 1993 catalogue, containing an identical text but stating in an addendum, page 302 no. 83, that the Flegel attribution is convincing but additional research is required to further identify if the pyramid composition of woven baskets and fruits is indeed by the hand of Martin Valckenborch or perhaps done by another artist.

2003 Anne-Dore Ketelsen-Volkhardt, Georg Flegel, Monographie mit Werkkatalog, München-Berlin 2003, not included.

2007 Expertise: prof. dr. Claus Grimm:
In Claus Grimm’s opinion the current picture maybe by Jeremias van Winghen (Brussels 1578 – Frankfurt ca. 1645). Grimm points out that for the authentication of the current picture, for both Ingvar Bergström and Sam Segal, the flower piece in the Heinz collection was essential. But whereas Segal attributes the flower piece to Van Winghen, Bergström sees Flegel’s hand, an attribution in accordance with the Frankfurter 1993 exhibition and subsequent scholarly opinions. Grimm indeed notices multiple similarities between the current picture and the Heinz flowerpiece, evident in not only compositional features like the radial composition of the flowers and the vertical positioning of the table, but also in the recurrence of certain elements like the china bowl with strawberries and the horizontal vine at the right. Additionally, both pictures show a vase with a similar and rare ochre-brown Manierist decoration and the flow of the light from front to the back, the tilted shadow of the objects, the brightness and colourfulness, the glass sphere shaped strawberries and the way the overall reflections are painted are consistent. However, when all of the aforementioned painterly characteristics are compared to Flegel’s oeuvre, Grimm seems to notice differences with, what he calls, Flegels overall somewhat dark and atmospheric art.
There is a Kitchen scene, signed and dated by J. van Winghen and shown at the museum in Frankfurt, which is seen as a key element for attribution by Grimm. He notices an Antwerp influence, like an artist such as Osias Beert, in both paintings. In his very personal opinion Grimm points out that bearer and condition should also be taken seriously when pinpointing the attribution. He dates this work to the first decade of the 17th century.

2007 Expertise: dr. Fred Meijer:
clearly recognizes the hand of Georg Flegel (objects) and one of the Valckenborgh family members. Meijer mentiones that the figures closely resemble those in cooperative works of Flegel and Lucas van Valckenborch. He states however that in his opinion the painting must date far after the death of Lucas in 1597 and no sooner than 1610, which crosses out the latter artist. Meijer finds the arguments thus far expressed in favour of Jeremias van Winghe not at all convincing.

Conclusion:

It is clear that almost all relevant experts agree the flower still-life and other important still life elements to be by Georg Flegel. The Heinz flower painting in the National Gallery in Washington clearly corresponds with the technique, colours, composition and vase of the present work.
Meanwhile there is much to say for the interior with both figures and the woven baskets with fruits to be by Frederik van Valckenborgh (Antwerp ca. 1566 – Neurenberg 1623), son of Martin and cousin of Lucas and of the same age as Flegel. Especially the facial execution and the theatrical gestures to emphasize the symbolism do compare closely to Martin but also to his son Frederik. The colouring of these two figures, however, seems closest to Frederik.
Yet, if Flegel would not have executed the woven baskets with fruits, the question remains whether Jeremias van Whingen might have participated. Perhaps the strongest argument for dismissing any link with Van Winghen is the fact that Van Winghen would have painted the entire composition himself.
However, it seems clear from all the various expertises that we can clearly distinguish multiple hands in the overall composition. A natural collaboration with the Valckenborgh family seems more likely. In any case, this two or perhaps three partite contribution is a unique and early document of German still-life and Kitchen-interior painting. An execution date should therefor be after 1600 and possibly between 1610-1615.

Provenance

– probably Duke Charles Gustave de Tessin (1695-1770), at Akerö Castle, Sweden;
– his nephew, Frederick Sparre, 1803;
– his son-in-law Frederick Montgomery;
– his sale of the Castle and its contents in 1858 to C. Arfwedson;
– his grand-daughter, Maria Th. Cederström, 1869;
– and by descent to the former owner;
– Sale Sotheby’s London, Dec. 6 1989, lot no. 21;
– private collection, Germany;
– with Douwes Fine Art, London, 1997;
– private collection, Switzerland;
– with Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam.

Exhibition

– Frankfurt am Main, Historical Museum, “Georg Flegel”, 1993-1994, cat.no. 9 with ill.;
– this exhibition travelled in a reduced form to the National Gallery of Prague,1994;
– Leeuwarden, Fries Museum, “Van Jan Steen tot Jan Sluijters, De smaak van Douwes”, from 21-11-1998 to 21-2-1999, in cat. with ill.no. 7;
– Galerie Virginie Pitchal, Paris, 2001, “Feasts and Festivities”, catalogue with collaboration and a preface by Fred Meijer, curator of old Master Paintings in the RKD in The Hague;
– Belgium, Sint-Niklaas, Tentoonstellingszaal Zwijgershoek, ‘Over het genot van De Zintuigen in de schilderkunst’, Sept. 2012 – Jan. 2013, cat. pp. 75-77 with ill. on p. 76.

Literature

Kurt Wettengl, ‘Georg Flegel, Stilleben’, Frankfurt am Main 1993-1994, cat.no. 9, p. 58, with ill.

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