It’s another twist on the discovery story but this time the works were held in a Dutch cupboard for a century or more. And instead of finding a renowned master’s work, the family found that they owned the work of an overlooked and under-appreciated Old Master. Here’s what happened: A Dutch family found two old still life paintings in a cupboard. Naturally, they were curious to see if the works had any value. So they called Sotheby’s in Amsterdam, and described them to an expert. The expert was quick witted enough, or the description was good enough, that she immediately made an appointment to go and see the works. There she was able to confirm that they are by Adriaen Coorte (circa 1665 – after 1707) and each is estimated at €100,000 to 150,000. They will be auctioned in Amsterdam on December 1st.
Never heard of Coorte? Let’s let Sotheby’s fill you in:
Works by Adriaen Coorte – a painter of outstanding quality and originality – are rare to the market, and few museums possess his works. At the time of the major Adriaen Coorte exhibition in the Mauritshuis in Den Haag last year, only 64 paintings were known of him, to which these two pictures are major additions. The two paintings – one entitled Still life of a peach and two apricots and the other Still life of strawberries in an earthenware bowl – are highly representative of Coorte’s simple and distinctive style and they come to auction in fine, untouched condition. One is dated 1692 and the other is probably slightly later, and like the majority of Coorte’s work – and rather unusually in Dutch art – they were painted on paper and later glued to panel. The 1692 painting is the artist’s earliest known dated work on paper.
Of all the still life painters of the Dutch Golden Age, Coorte is the most enigmatic, as well as one of the most loved by modern collectors. Towards the end of the 17th century and into the early part of the 18th century he seems to have worked in complete isolation in the city of Middelburg in Zeeland, the same region where the Dutch family who discovered the painting originates from. Very little is known of his life although he is believed to have been a pupil of Hondecoeter in Amsterdam. Apart from a few of his earliest works, his painting betrays no influences whatsoever of any other painters or schools of painters and he had no followers or imitators. His still lifes are nearly all very simple compositions of produce from a typical garden (fruits, vegetables and nuts etc.) and always strictly according to season.
Coorte was almost completely disregarded until the 1950s when a series of articles and an exhibition curated by Laurens Bol drew attention to him. Since then the profile of his work has continued to rise, culminating with a major exhibition devoted to him at the Mauritshuis in The Hague in 2008.