Jean-François VAN DAEL
(Anvers, 1764 – Paris, 1840)
Grapes, peaches, and plums on an entablature
Oil on canvas
Signed lower left
62 x 51 cm
Jean-François (Jan-Frans) Van Dael is one of the most important painters of still lifes of the period 1790-1840.
After a short training at the Antwerp Academy, he obtained in 1785 a first prize for Architecture, which allowed him to go to Paris the following year, already being described as a “flower painter”. However, it is only as a decorator and trompe-l’oeil specialist that he realizes his first creations in France, especially on the building site of Saint-Cloud, Bellevue and Chantilly.
It seems that he then receives the lessons of the Dutch Gérard Van Spaendonck (1746-1822), confirmed artist and great specialist of still life and botanical subjects, arrived in Paris in 1770.
Van Dael quickly sees his reputation grow, and he enjoys housing in the Louvre from 1793, the year of his first participation in the Salon; he thus appears in Boilly’s painting of 1798, which represents the principal artists of the time, gathered in the studio of Jean-Baptiste Isabey.
He obtained the orders of the best society, as well as successive sovereigns of France for nearly forty years, and the two empresses Josephine and Marie-Louise will acquire several of his paintings; his compositions “are paid at the price of gold,” reports Paul Marmottan. The various regimes gave him many prizes and awards, crowned by the Legion of Honor in 1825.
Together with Van Pol and Van Os, Van Dael extends in France the great tradition of the Dutch still life from de Heem to Van Huysum, bringing a neoclassical touch: flowers and/or fruits placed on entablatures of stone or marble, with neutral and simple backgrounds. Marmottan judges him even more neat 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 especially runs a workshop, with many female students. This workshop, located at the Sorbonne (where he lives between 1806 and 1817), is thus represented in the painting of the 1817 Salon of his compatriot Van Bree.
Our sober but very present composition, which offers a harmonious blend of rusticity, delicacy and refinement, evokes the end of summer. It gathers with delight some peaches with velvety skin, a magnificent bunch of white grapes still attached to its vine and a branch of large purple plums, resting on a cabbage leaf; a gastropod brings a funny animal presence. The realism of the whole is further accentuated by drops of water.
We can stylistically compare our painting of works made around 1810, including an oil on panel (53×43 cm) dated 1809, kept in the Moscow Pushkin Museum (sale from 08/12/2011, Sotheby’s London, 110 000 €) .
The signature in capital letters, engraved in marble, is found in the still life with flowers and fruit (oil on canvas, 1.07 x 0.82 m) preserved at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.
Among the museums holding Van Dael’s works: Louvre, Hermitage of St. Petersburg, Pushkin, Melbourne, Florence, Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge, Malmaison, Castle of Fontainebleau, Compiegne Castle, Lyon, Rouen, Orleans, Lille…