Our painting stands close to works by Pieter Gerritsz. van Roestraeten.
Similar paintings, not all painted by the same unique hand, have been grouped under the so-called ‘Pseudo-Roestraeten’.
According to early biographers the Dutch painter of portraits and genre scenes Pieter Gerritsz. van Roestraeten was introduced (in his early 30-ies, around the middle of the 1660s) to King Charles II by his compatriot Sir Peter Lely on the condition that he paints no more portraits. He kept his word and painted for the next 35 years in London detailed still lifes with precious objects. These hold very often the same objects, probably props that the painter kept in his studio. Many objects in our painting also occur in paintings by van Roestraeten.
The medallion at the centre of King William III forms a ‘terminus a quo’ date, that is the earliest limit from which our painting can date: the future king landed in November 1688 in England.
About Pieter Gerritsz. van Roestraeten
Haarlem 1630 – 1700 London
In his early, Dutch years van Roestraeten had painted peasant scenes and portraits. After his move to London, around the middle of the 1660s, he specialised in still lifes; besides these he painted a few self portraits.
He was a pupil of Frans Hals in Haarlem between circa 1646 and 1651.
He entered in 1651 the Guild of Saint Luke of Haarlem as a portrait painter. He soon moved to nearby Amsterdam where he remained until 1659. In 1654 he married there a daughter of Frans Hals’s second marriage, Adriaentje.
Between 1663 and 1666 he moved to London. According to Arnold Houbraken (the painter’s biographer in his “De Groote Schouburgh” of 1718) van Roestraeten was introduced to King Charles II (1630 – 1685) by Sir Peter Lely (1618 – 1680). Lely, who was of Dutch origin (his real name was Pieter van der Faes), was the dominant English portrait painter. Apparently afraid of competition in the field of portraiture, Lely had offered to introduce van Roestraeten to the King on the condition that he ceased painting portraits. Van Roestraeten kept his promise, for there are no further known portraits, other than self-portraits. It seems the King also encouraged van Roestraeten to paint still lifes, at first strongly influenced by Willem Kalf.
Pieter van Roestraeten witnessed the Great Fire of London in September 1666, during which he suffered a severe hip injury. That disaster destroyed almost all the homes of the City’s inhabitants. Van Roestraeten lived in Covent Garden, close to the Palace of Whitehall. In 1693/94 h was recorded in King Street. He was successful and his pictures fetched high prices; he charged his aristocratic patrons 50 pounds per still life. He remained in London until his death in 1700. He was buried at Saint Paul’s church in Covent Garden in London, just like Lely.
Van Roestraeten specialised in the very detailed representation (“portraits”) of precious objects on a dark background. These prized possessions often have a Vanitas content. He seems to have signed his paintings regularly, but he almost never dated them. Except for some of his small, early works, which are painted on panel, van Roestraeten always painted on canvas.
About the Pseudo-Roestraeten
Nothing is known about the workshop practice of Pieter Gerritsz. van Roestraeten. But it is clear that over a career of 35 years in London he must have influenced a number of yet unidentified still life painters. They have been grouped under the invented name of ‘Pseudo-Roestraeten’. There was clearly an eager demand for this type of subjects with silver items, tea sets, books and music instruments. Very often these have been represented on woven carpets, but not so here.
Our painter must have stood very close to van Roestraeten in London, for he displayed in our composition precious objects that appear regularly in paintings by the master himself; he probably used these as props in his workshop.
About our painting
Van Roestraeten specialised in ostentatious still lifes, so-called ‘Pronk still lifes’, with prominence given to fashionable luxury objects: English silver objects and Chinese tea ware.
The large, embossed silver ginger jar appears in many of van Roestraeten’s paintings: it was a typical court gift of the Restoration period under Charles II; the king regularly gave these to his numerous mistresses, the most famous ones were the actress Nell Gwyn and the French lady-in-waiting of Queen Catherine of Braganza, Louise of Kérouaille.
Left of the silver ginger jar stands a red clay Yixing teapot, from the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. Tea drinking was introduced in Europe by the Portuguese. The former Portuguese princess, Queen Catherine of Braganza, who was the wife of King Charles II, instigated this habit in England.
The silver gilt pewter at left, topped with a putto holding a trident spear, also appears in a composition by van Roestraeten from the Louvre, currently at the Museum of Melun in France.
One of the silver medallions finally, helps us in dating the painting: it is the one hanging above the Chinese tea pot. It represents King William III (1650 – 1702), King of England, Ireland and Scotland since 1689. Was our painter like van Roestraten also of Dutch origin? He did not write the King’s name in Latin, ‘Gulielmus’ (which one usually sees on English coins and medallions), but he wrote ‘Wilhelmus’, as the Prince of Orange and former Stadtholder was known in the Dutch Republic. The Protestant Prince of Orange, William III and his wife, Mary II, invaded England in 1688 with the aim of overthrowing his Catholic father-in-law, James II, the successor of his brother, Charles II. William and Mary were crowned 11 April 1689. Therefore a date of 1688, when William arrived in England, is the earliest date possible for this painting painted in England.
Under the silver gilt pewter hangs a silver medallion representing Queen Catherine of Braganza (1638 – 1705), wife of King Charles II (1630 – 1685).
Why should you buy this painting?
Because there is more to this mysterious display of precious objects and medallions, frozen in time and depicted against a typical dark background, than meets the eye.