Adriaen Coorte often focused his compositions on discrete elements placed on a stone tabletop. Whether depicting a bowl of cherries, an arrangement of exotic shells, or a bunch of asparagus, as in this small masterpiece, he imbued his scenes with a haunting timelessness. Here, Coorte balanced the painting by offsetting the bundle of white asparagus with a sprig of red currants and enhanced the composition by using soft light, atmosphere, texture, and a delicate palette of purples, greens, whites, and reds.
Virtually nothing is known about Adriaen Coorte except that he created about one hundred paintings between 1683 and 1707. He apparently lived and worked in Middelburg, the capital of the province of Zeeland in the southern part of the Netherlands, where local collectors acquired many of the artist’s still lifes. He may have been a gentleman "amateur" painter rather than a professional artist, and until the late 1950s his name hardly appeared in discussions of Dutch art. Now, however, Coorte is rightly recognized as a gifted and original master, whose spare and carefully balanced compositions are highly prized.
lower left on front of ledge in black paint: A. Coorte. 1696; on reverse: two circular red seals removed from previous stretcher and set into current stretcher, on each, “IRENE” under a crown, and large, embossed fabric monogram on a piece of fabric that may have been cut from a previous lining fabric, under a crown, ornately intertwined letters, possibly “IBK”
Marks and Labels
Baroness Irene von der Becke-Klüchtzner. "property of a gentleman"; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 8 July 1977, no. 84); (David Koetser Gallery, Zurich); private collection; (David Koetser Gallery, Zurich); purchased 7 October 2002 by NGA.
- Small Wonders: Dutch Still Lifes by Adriaen Coorte, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2003, checklist no. 6, color repro.
- Bol, Laurens J. Adriaen Coorte: A Unique Late Seventeenth Century Dutch Still-Life Painter. Assen, 1977: 68, no. a.
- Sutton, Peter C. Dutch and Flemish paintings : The Collection of Willem Baron van Dedem. London, 2002: 87, fig. 13a.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Small Wonders: Dutch still lifes by Adriaen Coorte. Exhibition brochure. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2003: no. 6.
- Bénézit, Emmanuel. Dictionary of artists. 14 vols. Paris, 2006: 3:1357.
- Buvelot, Quentin. The still lifes of Adriaen Coorte (active c.1683-1707): with oeuvre catalogue. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, 2008: 32, 43, 57, 64, 96, 97, no. 24, repro.
The support is a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric. It has been lined and the tacking margins have been removed, but cusping around all four edges indicates that it probably retains its original size. The ground is a smooth, off-white layer of medium thickness. The paint is relatively thin and fluid. Coorte used low impasto in the lights and thin glazes to build shadows in the darks. X-radiographs reveal a rectangular shape, roughly the same size as the asparagus, but slightly above and to the left of the asparagus. It seems that the artist blocked in the asparagus as rectangle and then moved it down and to the right during the final execution of the painting.
The painting is in very good condition. The paint bears a fine crackle pattern with minute losses at the intersections of the cracks. There are two small losses in the left ends of the asparagus and several others in the leaves, currants, and scattered through the background. The painting was treated in 2002 at which time discolored varnish, inpaint, and overpaint were removed. The varnish and inpaint applied during that treatment have not discolored.
Work of Art
Work of Art
- Event Name
- March 1–June 1
- Mon, Tues, and Wed at 1:00
- March 5, 2012 at 2:00
March 7, 2012 at 4:00
- East Building, Auditorium
- Name of docent
- 60 minutes
- Registration for this event begins on April 1, 2012 at noon.
- Download the program notes (100k)
- Italian Collection