Amsterdam, 26 oktober 2020
I have studied the photo of your Still life of flowers in a basket upon a stone table (oil on panel, 39 x 27,5 cm) (fig. 1), which I have also inspected in person on various occasions. In my opinion, this floral still life is a characteristic work of the Antwerp painter Jan van den Hecke the Elder (1619-1684), probably painted in the later 1640s, probably in Antwerp.
Jan van den Hecke became a pupil of the obscure painter Abraham Hack (active 1623/24-1638/39), in Antwerp in 1636, and was accepted as a master there in 1642. Reportedly, he was in Italy from about 1653 to 1658, but otherwise worked in Antwerp. He was a prolific painter of mainly still lifes and of flower paintings which, like the present one, were characteristically painted with a relatively bright palette that included strong red, white, blue, and yellow. He often worked on panel, regularly on canvas, and occasionally on copper supports. He did not often sign his works and very rarely dated any, but several paintings were documented early on as his, particularly paintings he sold to Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Habsburg (1614-1662), governor of the Southern Netherlands from 1648 to 1656. Leopold Wilhelm extensively collected work by Flemish painters and appears to have been keen on van den Hecke’s flower paintings. He took a number of them back with him to Vienna, where in part they eventually ended up in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, while others were sold at some point. A garland of flowers around the portrait(?) of a young man by Jan Lievens (fig. 2), which is commonly dated to 1642-1644, is probably somewhat earlier than your painting, while a basket of flowers in Leopold Wilhelm’s collection was probably done later (fig. 3). A number of flower pieces by Jan van den Hecke are particularly close in type and execution to your painting (figs. 4, 5, and 6), which fairly recently surfaced in a French private collection. Particularly the last of these has a similarly highly built-up composition, with white narcissi at the top. Similarly high, but somewhat later, are two flower pieces with landscape backgrounds, on relatively large canvasses (figs. 7, and 8). The first, also from Leopold Wilhelm’s collection, was dated 1652 before it was reduced somewhat in size. A similar date for the second is confirmed by comparison of the fruit it contains with the fruit in another painting by Jan van den Hecke(fig. 9). That work in Vienna was originally part of a series, now dispersed, one of which is dated 1650. In view of this chronology, your painting will have originated in the later 1640s, which is corroborated by the dendrochronological dating of the panel.
With best wishes,
Fred G. Meijer Art History