Jan Jansz. den Uyl the Elder
Still life with a Façon de Venice glass in a Bekerschroef, a pewter jug, a silver cup and plate with bread roll and knife, on a table with a partly draped white cloth
Oil on panel, 78.50x49.00cm
Possibly signed with an owl (uyl) and dated 163
Jan Jansz. den Uyl The Elder (ca. 1595/96 – 1639) was a Dutch Golden Age painter who specialized in still lifes, particularly banquet pieces. He was born in Kampen, Netherlands, and is thought to have been a pupil of Pieter Claesz, one of the leading painters of still lifes in the Dutch Golden Age. He was also influenced by the work of Willem Claesz Heda, another important still life painter.
Den Uyl’s paintings are characterized by their rich colors, their detailed depiction of food and objects, and their use of light and shadow. He often included symbolic objects in his paintings, such as skulls and owls, which were meant to remind viewers of the transience of life.
Den Uyl’s paintings are often described as “mystical” or “ethereal,” due to their use of light and shadow and their careful attention to detail. His paintings are also notable for their use of symbolic objects, which often have a religious or moralizing meaning. For example, the owl, which is a recurring motif in Den Uyl’s paintings, is often interpreted as a symbol of death or wisdom.
His paintings can be found in the public collections of museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; The North Carolina Museum of Art and many others.
The authors of banketje still lifes loved to create an enigmatic atmosphere in their paintings; the items on tabletops were depicted so as to invite the viewer to analyse every little detail in the composition, to look for associated meanings between the food and other objects that were often intricately intertwined.
Jan den Uyl, however, revelled in the simplicity of the genre, stripping it to its bare essentials. Also in this still life he uses a strikingly minimalist composition that seems to be an elaborate study of texture and reflection. Although the layered positioning of the objects appears haphazard and spontaneous at first glance, it expresses, in fact, purposeful and carefully structured geometry. An ascending diagonal line that starts from the right moves along the objects and converges with another diagonal line that starts from the edge of the tablecloth at bottom left. Together they climb to an off-centre apex, crowned by a tall Venetian goblet with a decorative swan head.
Technically brilliant, this realistic still life depicts the trademark features of 17th century Dutch painting characterized by the accentuated play of light and shadow, the carefully calculated perspectives between objects, and enchanting reflections creating an illusion of reality.
Private collection, France
Private collection in Westphalia (Germany)
Private collection, Southern Germany
Auction Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Dusseldorf, September 20, 2014, lot 15
Private collection, Zurich
Art rules, Artlife project, Tallinn, 2015