About Willem Ormea
Probably born in Utrecht circa 1611 – 1673 Utrecht
Active 1634 – 1673.
Fish still life painter.
His birthplace was probably Utrecht, where his father, Marcus, worked. Marcus was also a fish still life specialist, although no signed works by him are known. Willem must have been his pupil. The earliest written record of a Utrecht fish still life is a painting of fish on a beach by Marcus Ormea: he donated it in 1628 to the local St Job’s hospital.
Dated works by Willem are known between 1634 and 1658. He probably spent most of his life and career in Utrecht; in 1664 he is documented in Amsterdam.
Usually Willem Ormea displayed his fish in a coastal landscape, while the sea with ships behind was painted by a member of the Willaerts family (the father Adam and his two sons, Abraham and Isaac), who were also active in Utrecht. While Willem Ormea usually signed his works, the Willaerts rarely signed these collaboration pieces.
According to Laurens J. Bol in those days there was a genuine collaborative effort between Ormea and the Willaerts family, although owners of an Ormea still life are sometimes also known to have asked the Willaerts family workshop to improve the background.
About our painting
I have identified the fish in our painting from left to right as:
- a turbot, brill or halibut (tied together with a piece of rope)
- a haddock (which belongs to the family of the codfish)
- two shells
- a small tub gurnard
- part of a second haddock
Although Ormea lived in Utrecht, that is some 70 km from the sea, he always painted sea fish, rather than freshwater fish.
The fish and probably the smallest shell are indigenous of the North Sea. The largest shell is exotic; it might come from the shores of Africa, from the Mediterranean or even from the Indian Ocean.
As to the background it is difficult to pinpoint a precise name from a member of the Willaerts family onto it, although it was probably painted by Abraham Willaerts, the eldest son of Adam. It looks like an Italianate coastline.
Ormea is known for his limited number of varieties that he represented. He regularly made variations on the same composition, as can be seen in my comparative works. While our painting dates from 1640 Ormea painted a similar composition in 1646, which is today in the Wakefield Art Gallery in Great Britain.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is in very good condition, fully signed, dated and published.