Oil on canvas. cm 67,5 x 97
This independent and unpublished still life is by Jan Roos, a native of Antwerp who sojourned twice in Genoa. Arriving in 1614, he remained there for several months before moving on to Rome, where he lived until about 1616. It was then that he returned to Genoa, where he remained permanently, until his death in 1638. He was married there, and opened a workshop that became the busiest in the Genoese Flemish colony, thus becoming part of a regular exodus of Flemish painters to the “Superba” 1. He may have been encouraged to find a career in the wake of his first master Jan de Wael’s two sons, Lucas (1591-1661) and Cornelis (1592-1667). It was with Frans Snyders, who had just returned from Italy in 1610, that he completed his training, which lasted until 1614, when he left for Italy. Apart from his work as an independent painter, he collaborated with various artists, particularly with Van Dyck during his two Genoese sojourns (1621 and 1625-1627). His success is clear from a number of inventories, where his name appears with regularity, and he also excelled at figure painting.
Jan Roos’ style can be recognized by his treatment of the melon skin, described with small white brushstrokes loaded with white pigment (this is also visible on the figs), by his compact presentation of fruit placed at ground level, by his attention to foliage, and especially by his velvety illumination, which softens the chiaroscuro atmosphere. The artist is sparing in his use of light, which envelops his objects gently and never falls too directly on the fruit, which are caught in its sidelines. The elevated viewpoint allows for a description of the undersides of the mushrooms, and thus enabling a skilful play with these bright areas, which become the most luminous part of the composition. A comparison with other known works by Jan Roos is eloquent, and includes the Allegory of Peace for the City of Genoa (Genoa, private collection), especially the area in the left foreground, and the David and Abigail (also in a private collection) 2. One can also compare the large Still Life with Fruits, Vegetables, and Flowers (an Allegory of Autumn?) in the Palazzo Bianco, Genoa, which has a similar compositional arrangement, even in its choice of objects, such as the poppies on the left, seen here in the half-penumbral light3.
1 The artist’s oeuvre and career have been treated by Anna Orlando in a number of publications: “Il ruolo di Jan Roos. Un fiammingo nella Genova di primo Seicento”, Nuovi Studi, I, no. 2, 1996, pp. 35-57; “I fiamminghi e la natura morta a Genova. O del trionfo dell’Abbondanza”, in P. Boccardo and C. Di Fabio, eds., Pittura fiamminga in Liguria. Secoli XIV-XVII, Cinisello Balsamo, 1997, pp. 261-283; entries and biography in Van Dyck a Genova, grande pittura e collezionismo, exh. cat., Genoa, Palazzo Ducale, 22 March – 13 July 1997; “Le ‘nature morte animate’ del Seicento Genovese”, in G. Godi, ed., Fasto e rigore. La natura morta nell’Italia Settentrionale dal XVI al XVIII secolo, exh. cat., Reggia di Colorno, 20 April – 25 June 2000, pp. 13-25; “Il secolo d’oro della ‘natura morta animata’genovese”, in M. Gregori, ed., Natura morta italiana da Caravaggio al Settecento, exh. cat., Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, 26 June – 12 October 2003, pp. 298-302; “Dal Nord a Genova. Pittura fiammingo-genovese nel Seicento”, in P. Boccardo and C. Di Fabio, eds., Genova e l’Europa Atlantica, Genoa, 2006, pp. 187-209; and, as editor, I fiori del Barocco. Pittura a Genova dal naturalismo al rococò, exh. cat., Genoa, Musei di Strada Nuova – Palazzo Rosso e Palazzo Bianco, 25 March – 25 June 2006, pp. 276-281.
2 See further articles by Anna Orlando: “Giacomo Liegi”, in Genova nell’Età barocca, exh. cat., Genoa, Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola – Galleria di Palazzo Reale, 2 May – 26 July 1992, pp. 249-250, no. 149; and “Un fiammingo a Genova: documenti figurativi per Giacomo Liegi”, Paragone, no. 549, November 1995, p. 63, fig. 51.
3 A. Orlando, in I fiori del Barocco. Pittura a Genova dal naturalismo al rococò, exh. cat., 2006, cited at the end of note 1, pp. 280-281, no. 103.