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VAN DAEL Jean François

Grapes, peaches, and plums on an entablature

VAN DAEL Jean François

(Anvers, 1764 – Paris, 1840)

Grapes, peaches, and plums on an entablature

Oil on canvas
Signed lower left on the entablature
62 x 51 cm

Jean-François (Jan-Frans) Van Dael is one of the most important still life painters of the period 1790-1840.

After rapid training at the Antwerp academy, in 1785 he obtained a first prize in Architecture, which allowed him to go to Paris the following year, already being qualified as a “flower painter”. However, it was only as a decorator and specialist in trompe l'oeil that he made his first efforts in France, notably on the construction sites of the châteaux of Saint-Cloud, Bellevue and Chantilly.

It seems that he then received lessons from the Dutch Gérard Van Spaendonck (1746-1822), an established artist and great specialist in still life and botanical subjects, who arrived in Paris in 1770.

Van Dael quickly saw his reputation grow, and he benefited from accommodation at the Louvre from 1793, the year of his first participation in the Salon; he thus appears in Boilly's painting from 1798 which represents the main artists of the time, gathered in the workshop of Jean-Baptiste Isabey.

He obtained orders from the best society, as well as from successive sovereigns of France for nearly forty years, and the two empresses Joséphine and Marie-Louise acquired several of his paintings; his compositions “are paid for at the price of gold” reports Paul Marmottan. The different regimes awarded him numerous prizes and rewards, crowned by the Legion of Honor in 1825.

Alongside Van Pol and Van Os, Van Dael extends in France the great tradition of Dutch still life from de Heem to Van Huysum, bringing a neo-classical touch: flowers and/or fruits placed on stone or marble entablatures, with neutral and simple backgrounds. Marmottan considers him even more careful than Van Spaendonck in the details.

At the heart of the more general craze for pastoral subjects, Van Dael sometimes collaborates with other artists such as Piat-Joseph Sauvage or Antoine Chazal, and above all directs a workshop, with many female students. This workshop, located at the Sorbonne (where he lived between 1806 and 1817), is thus represented in the painting from the Salon of 1817 by his compatriot Van Bree.

Our sober but very present composition, which offers a harmonious blend of rusticity, indulgence and refinement, evokes the end of summer. It tastefully brings together a few peaches with velvety skin, a magnificent bunch of white grapes still clinging to its vine and a branch of large purple plums, resting on a cabbage leaf; a gastropod brings a fun animal presence. The realism of the whole is further accentuated by the drops of water.

We can stylistically compare our painting to works produced around 1810, in particular an oil on panel (53×43 cm) dated 1809, kept at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow (sale 08/12/2011, Sotheby's London, 110,000 €).

The signature in capital letters, engraved in the marble, is found in the Still Life with Flowers and Fruits (oil on canvas, 1.07 x 0.82 m) kept at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

Among the museums holding works by Van Dael: Louvre, Hermitage of Saint Petersburg, Pushkin, Melbourne, Florence, Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge, Malmaison, Château de Fontainebleau, Château de Compiègne, Lyon, Rouen, Orléans, Lille…

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