Still Life with Bottles and a Cowrie Shell dates from the artist’s period at the Dutch town of Nuenen, where he lived for two years with his parents, and is one of a group of 13 still life paintings created in the autumn of 1884.
All but three of these pictures are now in museums including the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Osterreichische Galerie, Vincent van Gogh Foundation, Centraal Museum Utrecht (on loan from Museum van Baaren Foundation) and the Norton Simon Museum.
Connaught Brown has priced the work in the region of €3.5m.
The work is offered with a provenance that can be traced back to van Gogh’s brother Theo, from whom it was acquired in 1904 by Henricus Petrus Bremmer, one of the few early admirers of van Gogh's. Bremmer later helped the author of the artist’s first catalogue raisonné.
After then passing through several Belgian art collections, it came up at auction at Sotheby's London in 1968 and has since remained in private hands.
It was during the two years living in his father's rural parish at Nuenen that van Gogh abandoned his previous ambitions to become either an art dealer or lay preacher in order to concentrate on his own work.
He began to work with oil and canvas which he had previously been mostly unable to afford, and his work from this period was defined by still lifes (often with rustic objects), pastoral landscapes and genre scenes.
Still Life with Bottles and a Cowrie Shell features a wooden cylindrical container on a wrought copper base, a smoking set, horn and cowrie shell which were found in the home of Charles Hermans, an artist van Gogh was helping to teach.
Van Gogh recalled in a letter to his brother: “Hermans possesses so many beautiful things, old pitchers and other antiques… just today Hermans told me that if I wanted to paint for myself a picture of things that were still too difficult for him, I could take them with me to the studio…I shall make one for you, and will pick out the best things.”
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