Visitors to the National Gallery can enjoy from today (December 13, 2017) four exclusive Dutch and Flemish paintings, which are generous testament collections from Willem Baron van Dedem.
The renowned Dutch-born collector, who was based in London, died in November 2015 at the age of 86. For many years he had promised to give the National Gallery four paintings upon his death, and particularly desired that the works selected from his collection address gaps in the Gallery’s holdings and be on display to the public.
His son, Frits Baron van Dedem, says “We are honoured that the National Gallery acknowledges the quality and rarity of these four paintings that our father/grandfather collected over a period of more than fifty years It gives us great pleasure that the Gallery has decided to showcase these extraordinary works of art with the public.”
Christ crowned with Thorns by David Teniers the Younger (1641), Butterflies, Moths and Insects with Sprays of Common Hawthorn and Forget-Me-Not and Butterflies and Moths and Insects with Sprays of Creeping Thistle and Borage both by Jan van Kessel the Elder (both 1654), along with Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries, a Spray of Gooseberries, Asparagus and a Plum by Adriaen Coorte (1703), are now on display in Room 26.
“Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries, a Spray of Gooseberries, Asparagus and a Plum” is one of Coorte’s most ambitious compositions. Coorte’s work is not represented in the National Gallery Collection, and there are only four other works by him in UK public collections, so this small but powerful painting is an important addition to the Gallery’s holdings of still lifes painted in the latter part of the 17th century. It also offers visitors an intriguing alternative to the lavish abundance of works by Willem Kalf or Jan van Huysum.
Van Kessel continued the family tradition of painting small-scale, brightly coloured and minutely detailed paintings on panel or copper, which were avidly sought after by collectors throughout Europe. He is best known for his depictions of flowers, insects and animals, both living and dead, as seen in his “Butterflies, Moths and Insects with Sprays of Common Hawthorn and Forget-Me-Not” and “Butterflies and Moths and Insects with Sprays of Creeping Thistle and Borage”. Few works represent so well the 17th-century fascination with the natural world.
David Teniers the Younger specialised in everyday scenes and made only a handful of religious works throughout his long career. Until today, the National Gallery did not have a prime example of one of his religious paintings. By using familiar figures clad in contemporary dress, and by situating the action in what could be a local garrison, Teniers heightens the immediacy and pathos of the scene.
“Christ crowned with Thorns” is painted on an exceptionally large copper plate, and is beautifully preserved, allowing us to appreciate the artist’s colourful palette and his detailed and assured technique. While the Gallery has several large-scale history paintings by Rubens and van Dyck, until the acquisition of this work it has not been able to represent the sort of intimate and finely painted representations of historical themes that formed an integral part of sophisticated collectors’ cabinets in the 17th century.