Jean-Baptiste ROBIE (Brussels 1821 - 1910)
Still life of fruit with 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 Saint-Pierre Hospital. The artist had a relatively difficult childhood as he lost his mother at the age of 11 to 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 his family home: he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels and chose drawing, perspective and antique figures as his specialties. It was with Balthazar-François Tasson-Snel, painter and decorator, specializing in the figuration of religious, historical and mythological scenes, that he discovered the basics of classical painting. Jean-Baptiste Robie, initially attached himself to wall creations, which enabled him to meet his needs. Subsequently, on the advice of Théodore Fourmois, he chose to break away from wall painting, in favor of creating 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, eventually specializing 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, in front of this appellation to King Leopold 1st. 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 Sidney International Exhibition for Belgium. He also became a member of the Directing Commission of the State Royal Museums of Painting and Sculpture, and a member of the Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Fine Arts of Belgium, in 1891, Beaux-Arts class.
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 chiseled vermeil cup. Here, Jean-Baptiste Robie endeavors to restore the historiated decoration of this profane cup model inspired by 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 17th century Dutch still lifes 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.