Auction 126 Antiques & Works of Art, Silver & Jewellery


Still life with carpet, porcelain, books and "memento mori"

Pseudo-Roestraten, Attrib. (b. c.1700)


10.000 - 15.000

Session 1

20 March 2023


Oil on canvas

192x217 cm



Still-live with rug, books and “memento mori”

This painting, which we are presenting for sale at auction, features a composition that includes various objects dispersed on a table covered by a rug.
In paintings, rugs are depicted to emphasise settings in which a significant episode is taking place. As an example, it is on a rug that Christian Saints are often portrayed and, it is also on rugs that some of the most relevant iconographic scenes, such as the Annunciation, unfold.
From the 17th century onwards, rugs do also appear represented in secular contexts, within which they reflect concepts of opulence, exoticism, luxury, wealth, and social status. Although their early enjoyment was solely warranted to society’s most powerful and wealthiest, such as royalty and aristocracy, as the bourgeoisie’s economic power developed, oriental rugs did become conspicuous features in merchants and wealthy bourgeois portraits.
In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the relevance of rugs depictions in paintings diminishes considerably, simultaneously with the decreasing focus on the representation of details.
Regarding the lot herein described, we highlight the presence of a rug covered table, over which is arranged a composition with various objects symbolizing a memento mori - Latin expression literally meaning “remember you must die” – that alludes to the levelling effect of death on earthly luxuries.
The books, the papers, the writing implements, and the eyeglasses dispersed on the table are, in this context, a reference to studying, knowledge, and business. But they also emerge as an allegory to human effort interrupted by the exhaustion of life’s hourglass. The ceramic vase, in a reference to wine, symbolizes love, passion, seduction, and romantic conquests. Finally, the teapot, and the various Chinese porcelain objects resting on the table, reflect both the relaxing tea drinking activity, as well as the social status that such objects embody.
They are all, nonetheless, objects discarded in the implacable passing of time, assuming as such the role of allusions to transience, to the void of riches and possessions, and to the cessation and emptiness of earthly life.
Lastly a harp, visible in the background, an angelical instrument that symbolizes harmony and God’s praise, and which can be assumed as a link between heaven and earth, as if its strings become the figurative steps of a staircase that leads to eternal life.
The vanitas meaning is equally reinforced by the skull and the hourglass resting over the books in the foreground.

The Artist
It is possible that this painting was produced by the artist known as the Pseudo-Roestraten (ca. 1675-1725), an anonymous 17th / 18th painter that created many still-lifes in which feature books, documents, and precious objects, in a style similar to Pieter Gerritsz. van Roestraten (1630-1700). His identity not yet established, he was first referred as Pseudo-Roestraten in the 1990’s, by Art Historian Fred Meijer from the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Docmentatie (RKD).
This attribution was based on the evident stylistic affinities that Meijer identified by comparing approximately 100 still-lifes by this anonymous artist, with works by Pieter Gerritsz. van Roestraten. He does also suggest that both artists production was distinctly admired by English collectors, being likely that the latter may have supplied the Marquess of Lothian and Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.
One of his best-known works corresponds to a large still-life painting from 1678, which was documented in 1727 at Chatsworth House, where it remained until 1958, when it was auctioned by Christie’s on June 27th. Another painting, analogous to the one being auctioned by Veritas, can still be seen in Cornwall, at Trewithen House in the village of Probus.
If, on the one hand nothing is known on the life of this anonymous artist, the same cannot be said of his contemporary and renowned peer. From 1649 he became a disciple of Frans Hals (ca. 1580-1666) in Haarlem. In 1651 he moved to Amsterdam where, in 1654, he married Adriaentje, one of Frans Hals daughters. Later, the couple moved to London, settling on the south side of King’s Street, a conveniently close location to Whitehall Palace and to the studios of other contemporary artists such as Peter Lely and John Michael Wright (1617-1694). It is also known that van Roestraten suffered a hip injury during the September 1666 Great Fire of London, an accident that would leave him with a lifelong limp.
Primarily a still-life painter, most of his works fall under the category of “pronkstillevens” – Dutch term referring to large, ostentatious, luscious, and exuberant still-lifes. In these paintings, his capacity for representing metal objects, namely silverware, is clearly perceptible, such objects becoming the evidence of the riches owned by his aristocratic patrons. He was probably introduced to King Charles II (1630-1685) by the painter Sit Peter Lely (1618-1680), under the condition that he would not paint portraits, restricting himself to still-lifes instead.
He remarried following the death of his first wife. Dying soon after he was buried on June 10th, 1700, at London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Tiago Franco Rodrigues

Literature: Willigen, Adriaan van der (1926-2001); Meijer, Fred G.
“A dictionary of Dutch and Flemish still-life painters working in oils : 1525-1725”, 2003, p.227.

Closed Auction