Still Life with Mackerel, 1787

Anne Vallayer-Coster, French

Credit: Gift of Sid R. Bass in honor of Kay and Ben Fortson

This refined and striking work by one of the foremost still-life painters of eighteenth-century France celebrates the arrival of mackerel in Paris in springtime, when wealthy Parisians enjoyed the freshest specimens of this delectable fish. Arranged on a stone parapet covered by a linen cloth are a silver oil and vinegar cruet stand, a silver verrière (wine glass cooler) filled with crystal stemware, a lemon, a sprig of orange blossoms, and a brioche (a rich pastry)— whetting the viewer’s appetite for a simple but sumptuous feast.

Vallayer-Coster—esteemed for the vigor of her compositions, her virtuosity as a colorist, and her magical ability to imitate nature— explores how the painting’s overall silvery tonality varies according to material and reflections of light—from glass and metal to the mutable skin of the plump fish, dazzlingly rendered with strokes of brilliant vermilion and ocher near the gills. The reflections are sensitively observed, and the white napkin or tablecloth likewise partakes in the nuances of light, all suggested with the painter’s delicacy of touch.The damask cloth mimics the type of linen the artist would have owned: the initials V and C are embroidered in tiny red cross-stitch, along with the number 6, for the inventory of the painter’s housekeeper.



Collection of the artist and her husband Jean Pierre Silvestre Coster;

(his estate sale, 47 Boulevard du Temple, Paris, June 21, 1824, and days following, lot 31).

Louis Cournerie (1820-c. 1891);

(his estate sale, Féral, Paris, December 8-9, 1891, lot 36),

purchased by Léonce Coblentz, Paris, for 420 Fr;

purchased by Félix-Louis Doistau (1846-1936), Paris, by 1908 for 620 Fr;

(his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 9, 1909, lot 77);

purchased by Georges Bottolier-Lasquin for 1100 francs;

(his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, November 21-23, 1932, lot 424).

Reacquired at some point by Felix-Louis Doistau (1846-1936);

(his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 5-6, 1937, lot 31, sold for 6900 Fr).

(Art market, Paris).

(Saam Nijstad, The Hague);

Ph. van Ommeren collection, Rotterdam, by 1968;

acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel (Saam) Nijstad (1922-2011), The Hague, by 2002;

(Sale, Sotheby’s, London, 6 July 2011, lot 7);

private collection;

(purchased by Wildenstein & Co., New York, through Sotheby’s, 2012)

acquired by the Kimbell Art Foundation, gift of Sid R. Bass in honor of Kay and Ben Fortson, 2019