Working in the mercantile city of Haarlem, Claesz was a pioneer of the so-called monochrome ‘breakfast’ still-life, which consisted of simple fare typical of a Dutch meal with glasses of wine or beer arranged on tabletops.
Sotheby’s set a new high for the painter in July last year, when it sold a key work in Claesz’s development of the breakfast still-life for a premium-inclusive £956,750.
Thought to date from the mid-1630s, Bonhams’ 2ft 8in x 2ft 11in (82.5 x 90cm) oil on panel depicted a scattered array of pieces on a draped table, including a silver beaker, bread roll and Claesz’s trademark upturned pewter jug. It had been purchased by the late owner in 1947.
Bonhams’ attribution was based on a similar upturned pewter jug and silver beaker that had appeared in a still-life offered at Christie’s in 1992 as a collaboration between Claesz, Jan Jansz Den Uyl and Roelof Koets. An alternative attribution to Hendrick van Heemskerck (1619-80) was also mooted in the catalogue note.
Overall, selective bidding and a degree of sensitivity towards overly optimistic estimates greeted the auction house’s Old Master offering, with a little under half of material getting away. Among the high-flying failures was an attributed picture to the Italian Baroque painter Andrea Sacchi (1599-1661) depicting Daedalus fastening wings on his son Icarus.
It was perhaps unsurprising it fell short of its £250,000-350,000 estimate, given the artist’s record stands at a premium-inclusive £233,000 and the same painting had failed to sell at Sotheby’s New York in 2009, guided at $70,000-90,000.