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Still Life with Fruit, Oysters and a Facon-de-Venise Wine Glass on a Draped Table Ledge



Laurens Craen (1620-1666)
Still Life with Fruit, Oysters and a Facon-de-Venise Wine Glass on a Draped Table Ledge
oil on wood
AGLC 315 @ A.G Leventis Gallery

   life is represented consisting of three oysters,  an orange, a lemon in sections, a bunch of grapes  with its vine leaves and a tall façon-de-Venise wine  glass, with a lemon peel decoratively curled around  it. A bit of white wine is in the glass, and the lemon  peel is used to impart extra flavour to the wine. A  few drops of lemon juice were used, much like today,  to give the oysters some acidity and taste. Parts of  these objects are placed on a blue-grey cloth with  long white tassels and a decorated fringe. This  work is interesting from a colouristic point of view,  with its pretty, light and pleasant palette. The paint  of the skins of the orange and the pieces of lemon  was thickly applied, and the ribbed peel of the  fruit is therefore captured very well. The work does  not have a signature. It was acquired as a work by  Cornelis Kruys (c. 1619-1654); the still lifes of this  Haarlem artist were always heavily influenced by the  work of his fellow townsman, Pieter Claesz. (c.1597-  1661), the most important painter in this genre in  Holland between 1620 and 1640. However, the  A. G. Leventis Collection still life was not inspired  by the work of Pieter Claesz. In fact, in style and  composition, it is closely connected with the still  lifes of the 1640s by Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-  1683/4). At that time, de Heem became without  doubt the most influential painter of still lifes both  in the Northern and Southern Netherlands. He had  many pupils and followers. Although this work is  painted in his style, de Heem’s brush never touched  this panel. Its style is, however, distinct, and it is  therefore possible to discover the hand of an able  master. On the basis of the colour scheme, and  especially the way in which the folds of the cloth are  represented falling over the table ledge, it is possible  to attribute this still life to Laurens Craen.        

Characteristic for Craen’s work is his use of oblique  lighting that is at the same time clear and soft, yet  plastic; also his tonality is very much in evidence  here, especially in the light clear green and the  transitions from yellow to orange. As we see here,  his compositions often include vine foliage with  wavy leaves and tendrils rendered calligraphically;  the accumulation of objects on the ledge is  frequently crowned by a large façon-de-Venise glass  with a lemon peel curled around it. Moreover, any  doubt about the attribution to Laurens Craen can be  dismissed when we take a closer look at the drapery  on the table. This piece of textile must have been  a prop in Craen’s studio, as this cloth with its long  tassels and decorative, embroidered fringe appears  in a number of paintings. We see it, among other  examples, in two still lifes with fruit and a lobster and  a Still Life with Fruits on a Wooden Table Ledge, which is  signed and dated 1649 by the artist. This date makes  it clear that the work in the A. G. Leventis Collection  can be dated c. 1650.

Not much research into the life and oeuvre  of Laurens Craen has been undertaken. It is  remarkable that only about two dozen paintings  are presently known by this talented master,  all of them still lifes – he does not seem to have  painted anything else. Laurens was possibly the  son of Pieter Craen, an artist who is mentioned  in the guild records of The Hague in 1623-1624  as a pupil of the important portrait painter Jan  Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn (c. 1572-1657). As far as  we know, Laurens lived and worked in Middelburg  in the Province of Zeeland between 1649 and 1666.  We know that he sent a letter, dated 14 October  1649, to Constantijn Huygens, secretary to the  Prince of Orange, in which he offered his services  to the court.6 It is possible that Craen worked with  de Heem in Antwerp around 1645-1646, before  settling in Middelburg. 

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About the artist

Not much is known about this Dutch painter. He may have worked briefly with Jan Davidsz. de Heem and helived in Middelburg between 1649 and c. 1666. About two dozen paintings by him are known, all of them stilllifes with fruit and other foods, characterised by his use of oblique lighting and refined tonality.

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