François Habert’s “Still life with a basket of grapes, a bowl of cherries and a silver-gilt columbine on a table” from the mid 17th century realised €247,000 at Dorotheum’s Old Master Auction on 19th April 2016, an extraordinary price for the artist, a world record.
The present still life painting is a rare work by François Habert, who was active in France in the mid-seventeenth century about whom even today little is known.
Despite the lack of biographical information, there are a number of signed works by Habert, which allow us to reconstruct the environment in which he worked.
Habert was influenced by the many Dutch and Flemish still-life artists living in Paris, who brought with them the more sumptuous and decorative style that was to dominate the genre in the second half of the 17th century. His fruit pieces, for example, find inspiration in the works of Jan Fyt and Jan Davidsz. de Heem, while his floral still lifes reveal an awareness of the paintings of Jean-Michel Picart.
In its opulence the present picture may be considered a “pronkstilleven”, a type of still life that was developed by Dutch artists such as de Heem, Abraham van Beyern and Willem Kalf, towards the middle of the 17th century. Valuable and rare objects, such as the silver-gilt cup and the blue and white porcelain bowls, often feature in works of this kind, and provided artists with the opportunity to demonstrate their technical mastery in rendering a wide range of textures and materials and the play of light across their varied surfaces. Such magnificent displays were, as in the present painting, generally set before a dark background, which only served to intensify the theatricality of their presentation.
François Habert (active in France in the mid-17th century)
Still life with a basket of grapes, a bowl of cherries, and a silver-gilt columbine on a table,
oil on canvas, 92 x 119 cm,
price realised € 247.000 (world record)