DescriptionMARTIN JOHNSON HEADE (American, 1819-1904)
Red Roses in a Japanese Vase on a Gold Velvet Cloth, circa 1885-1890
Oil on canvas
18 x 10 inches (45.7 x 25.4 cm)
Signed lower left: M.J. Heade
Estate of Mrs. Edward G. Jenkins, Sr., Lyndon, Kentucky (granddaughter of Alvin Wood, founder of Lyndon, Kentucky);
Private collection, Louisville, Kentucky, purchased from the above, circa 1975.
We would like to thank Dr. Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. for examining this work in the original and confirming its authenticity. This work will be included in the next edition of his Martin Johnson Heade catalogue raisonné. A letter from Dr. Stebbins authenticating the work and documenting it within the context of the artist's oeuvre accompanies this lot.
Dr. Stebbins' catalogue raisonné documents four floral still lifes which use the same decorative bud vase seen in the present painting as a container for presenting flowers (The Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade, New Haven, 2000, cat. nos. 511, 512, 519 and 531). The vessel is a Japanese vase of the Meiji period. The body of the bottle is made of copper or brass, to which the silver bamboo decoration is applied.
The four other floral still lifes in which Heade depicted this Meiji vase are dated, or can be dated, according to Stebbins' scholarship, to the period between 1883 and 1890. In each of Heade's presentations of it, the vase is shown at the same angle that it is in the present work, with the applied decoration turned to the right, and at least half of it extending out of view around to the back of the vessel.
In c. 1865-75, more than a decade before he painted this group of still lifes, Heade made an oil sketch of the Japanese vase on a small 8 x 10 inch piece of unstretched canvas, now in the collection of the St. Augustine Historical Society, St. Augustine, FL (Stebbins, 2000, cat. no. 382). That study probably served as the "painted model" for this and the other related paintings. It is noteworthy to mention that the artist annotated his initial sketch of the Meiji vase with the words "on yellow table." The present painting indeed shows the vase on a yellow colored cloth, painted in Heade's characteristic way of showing the nap of velvet with many vertical strokes of the brushpoint.
The canvas containing Heade's initial annotated sketch of this vase also depicts a red rose that is not fully open and facing to the left. Other related oil sketches on small pieces of unstretched canvas from the same time frame also feature studies of red roses, probably painted from life to serve as models for later paintings (also in the St. Augustine Historical Society). (One of those small oil sketches depicts a rose very close in shape and profile to the large blossom Heade painted on the right side of this arrangement.) Interestingly, the pentimenti visible beneath the rose at top left in this bouquet reveal that Heade's original concept for this flower was shaped differently from its finished appearance. The pentimento is very close to the rose on the oil sketch containing his study for the vase. Taken together, it seems that this still life is more closely dependent upon Heade's initial sketches than the other four in the series with Meiji vases, which begin to deviate from the initial conception both in terms of kinds of tabletops they depict, and the extent to which rose leaves begin occluding parts of the vase. Consequently, the present still life may be the earliest, or one of the first, Heade created in the group of five.
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