SEVERIN ROESEN (1816–1872)
Two-Tiered Still Life of Fruit, about 1857–72
Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in.
Signed (at lower right): S. Roesen
EX COLL.: private collection, Jersey City, New Jersey
Two-Tiered Still Life of Fruit depicts an arrangement of fruit and grape vines spilling out over the edge of a two-tiered black marble tabletop. A cornucopia of apples, peaches, plums, and several kinds of grapes are united with a wicker basket filled with strawberries, a slice of watermelon teeming with seeds, and a plate on which rests a peeled lemon, two plums, a cluster of white grapes, a red apple, and a single glass of white dessert wine, creating an atmosphere of rich abundance. For certain painting formats and sizes, Roesen developed what is essentially a prototype, and then made slight variations, adding or substituting various elements to create new works. Roesen scholar Judith Hansen O’Toole, in her monograph on the artist, carefully deconstructs Roesen’s still lifes, noting, for example, that his fruit arrangements were composed from a group of twenty-eight different elements. Roesen obviously followed a set formula that could be modified to the express wishes of his clients. Larger canvases required a more expansive composition, hence the two-tiered format seen here, which greatly increases the profusion of fruits, and thus amplifies the impression of the bounties of nature. There is one significant deviation from Roesen’s standard practice seen in the present canvas: the upper tier of marble is rotated relative to the bottom one. Only a very small number of works by Roesen feature this compositional device.