(Brussels 1821 - 1910)
Still life of fruits with a chalice
Oil on panel
H. 50 cm; L. 38 cm
Signed lower right
Jean-Baptiste Robie, also called Jean Robie, was born in 1821, in the heart of the paternal forge located in the center of Brussels. He was brought up in this universe, surrounded by five sisters, and six brothers in these buildings located in front of the Saint-Pierre hospital. The artist had a relatively difficult childhood since he lost his mother at the age of 11, swept away by cholera and saw his father remarry. In this context, the painter chooses to flee his hometown in favor of the city of Paris, where he exercises various manual professions. He works in particular in the building industry. In 1838, for economic reasons, Robie was forced to return to the family home: he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels and chose drawing, perspective and ancient figures as his specialties. It was with Balthazar-François Tasson-Snel, painter and decorator, specializing in the representation of religious, historical and mythological scenes, that he discovered the basics of classical painting. Jean-Baptiste Robie, initially attaches himself to wall creations, which allow him to meet his needs. Subsequently, on the advice of Théodore Fourmois, he chose to detach himself from wall painting, in favor of the creation of subjects on canvas or panels, in the spirit of his friend's creations.
His very first compositions therefore logically follow in the wake of his master's work, but he diversifies his work, devoting himself to landscape painting, to finally specialize in floral subjects. Very quickly, his work was a great success: he obtained his first gold medal at the Brussels Salon in 1848. Thanks to his work, in 1861, he was appointed Knight of the Order of Leopold I, military and civil order on most important in Belgium, founded in 1832, before this appellation to King Leopold I. Subsequently, he was appointed Officer, in 1869, then Commander of the Order of Leopold II, in 1881. He obtained the highest distinction, during his exhibition given on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Palais des Beaux -Arts. In 1879, the artist won first prize at the international exhibition in Sidney for Belgium. He also became a member of the Directing Commission of the Royal Museums of Painting and Sculpture of the State, and member of the Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Fine Arts of Belgium, in 1891, class of Fine Arts.
Our panel is the perfect image of this artist's work. Arranged on a neo-Renaissance carved wooden entablature, the fruits, each one more vivid than the next, crown a silver and chased vermeil cup. Here, Jean-Baptiste Robie endeavors to restore the historiated decoration of this secular cup model inspired by the 16th century chalices, whose reliefs are struck by the light. These objects were commonly used as drinking cups, as the resulting bunch of grapes easily suggests. This type of composition is reminiscent of the Dutch still lifes of the 17th century, where precious objects are highlighted by their brilliance. At that time each object presented had a meaning and therefore gave a painting a real message. In the 19th century, the only priority was the aesthetic aspect of these pieces of goldsmith's work, and the manner of arranging them in a theatrical composition.