A Still Life with a Pie on a silver Plate
Indistinctly signed, lower left
On panel, 19⅛ x 25¼ ins. (48.1 x 64.2 cm)
Anon sale, Christie’s, London, 7 July 2006, Lot 223
With Johnny Van Haeften Limited, London, 2006
Private collection, United Kingdom, 2006-2016
Stamped on the reverse with the coat-of-arms of the City of Antwerp
We are grateful to Fred Meijer for proposing the attribution to Christian Luycks on the basis of photographs
A selection of luxury objects is displayed on a wooden table top, draped with blue and white cloths. Occupying pride of place, on a large silver platter, is a succulent fruit pie, with an elaborate pastry crust, dusted with icing sugar. A portion of pie has been removed to a smaller plate, using a silver spoon, which now rests on the side of the serving dish. To the left, two peaches are presented on an engraved silver, scalloped-edged dish, or puntschotel: one is cut in half, revealing the stone and delicate white flesh. At the back of the arrangement, stand a tall flute, flanked by a façon-de-venise glass, filled with red wine, and a roemer of white wine, raised up on an elaborate metal glass-holder, called a bekerschroef. Vine leaves and tendrils twine around this finely wrought piece of metalwork and a strip of lemon peel spirals downwards from the glass goblet. A citron, an orange and a small pink prawn, lying near the front corner of the table, complete the tempting little feast.
One of the most accomplished seventeenth-century Flemish still-life painters, Christiaen Luycks remains surprisingly unknown. His varied still-life oeuvre includes floral bouquets, fruit still lifes, pronk still lifes, bird and game still lifes, and a variety of garlands and festoons. Neither of his teachers seems to have left their mark on his mature style, which is most strongly indebted to Jan Davidsz. de Heem, who worked in Antwerp for some twenty years and was one of the most influential flower and still-life painters of his time. Luycks’s garlands of flowers, surrounding a religious image, are reminiscent of the work of Daniel Seghers.
This elegant display of sumptuous food and fine tableware exemplifies the simpler banquet pieces of Christiaen Luycks. The pyramidal arrangement follows an established pattern in his work, as does the use of strong lighting, which serves to enhance each object’s three-dimensional quality. One cannot help but admire the artist’s uncanny ability to render the various surfaces, substances and textures depicted here, in particular, his description of the folds in the crumpled cloths, the glint and sheen of different metals, the translucence of the delicate glass drinking vessels and the gold and ruby liquids contained therein. The painterly handling and rich palette, with vibrant accents of yellow, blue and red, reveal the influence of Jan Davidsz. de Heem.
Several of the objects included here recur in other banquet pieces by the artist, who seems to have been remarkably consistent in his use of studio props. The silver-gilt bekerschroef, comparable to a similar piece by the Amsterdam goldsmith, Leendert Claesz. van Emden, in 1609, now in the Historical Museum of Amsterdam (I), and the very distinctive puntschotel appear in many of his pronk still lifes. Such costly pieces of tableware were regarded as status symbols, belonging only to the highest echelons of society. The fruit pie, with its pastry frill and funnel, is also a favourite motif of Christiaen Luycks, appearing time and again in his sumptuous displays. The same trio of objects ( the pie, puntschotel and bekerschroef) all appear together in three larger, more ambitious banketjes by the artist, probably dating from the 1650s: the first a signed painting of A Still Life Banquet Scene, formerly in the gallery of Peter Tillou (ii), the second, A pronk still life with a a silver jug.., also signed, was sold at Christie’s in New York on 24 January, 2003 (iii) and the third, A Banquet with a Monkey, in the collection of Mrs. H. John Heinz III (iv).
Christiaen Luycks was baptised in Antwerp on 17 August 1623. He became a pupil of the still- life painter Philips de Marlier in 1639 and then worked in the studio of Frans Francken III from 1642 to 1644. In June that year he made a brief journey to Lille but was back in Antwerp by 27 May 1645, where he married Geertruid Janssens van Kilsdonck in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk: the couple had one daughter, Maria. Luycks was registered as a master in the Antwerp guild of St. Luke on 17 July 1645. In a document dated 18 September 1646, Luycks is referred to as being “in the service of His Majesty the King of Spain”. Following the death of his first wife, Luycks married Maria Matthijssens in Antwerp’s St. Walpurgiskerk on 24 September 1648. The same year, Luycks painted a still life of fruit for his surgeon, in return for medical treatment renderedv. There is no further documentary reference to the artist after the baptism of a son on 16 August 1653. Only two dated works are known, both from 1650. However, a collaboration with David Teniers II and Nicolaes van Verendael in Dresden (vi), signed by all three artists, suggests that Luycks was still active in Antwerp in the late 1650s, when Verendael was starting out on his career. Subsequently, Luycks seems to have moved south as many of his later works bear French inscriptions. Although his place and date of death are not known, judging by the stylistic development of his later oeuvre, it seems likely that he remained active for many years after leaving Antwerp.
i Leendert Claesz. van Emden, Bekerschroef, 1609, silver-gilt, h. 24.8 cm, Historical Museum,
ii Christiaen Luycks, A Still Life Banquet Scene, signed, on panel, 45.5 x 71 cm. Illustrated in the
exhibition catalogue, The Age of Rubens, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts & the Toledo Museum of Art,
1993-1994, Cat. No. 115.
iii Christiaen Luycks, A pronk still life with a silver jug…, signed, on copper, 81.9 x 100.6 cm, Christie’s,
New York, 24 January 2003, Lot 73.
iv Christiaen Luycks, Banquet with a Monkey, canvas, 83.5 x 105 cm, collection Mrs. H. John Heinz III.
v Luycks had suffered injuries as a result of an unspecified accident, see Eric Duverger, Antwerpse
kunstinventarissen uit de zeventiende eeuw, 9 vols, Brussels, 1984-97, vol. 5, 1984, p. 438, doc. no.
vi David Teniers III, Nicolaes van Verendael, Christiaen Luycks, Before the Kitchen, oil on canvas,
83 x 120 cm, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, No. 1091.
1623 - Antwerp - after 1657
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