adam de coster
(Malines 1586 – antwerp 1643) 

 

a boy serving a glass of wine to a man with a lighted candle

 

oil on canvas
69 x 51 cm. (27.2 x 20.1 in.)
c. 1620

“All these artists were seduced by the latest developments in the South, and imported into their native towns visions of real life, which were novel and disturbing. […] Caravaggism may have been an international movement; but it took a national form wherever it prospered.”

Benedict Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, Vol. I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 23.

Born in Malines in 1586, Adam de Coster spent most of his working life in Antwerp, where he became a master at the Guild of Saint Luke in 1607/1608. Beyond this, there is little known about his life. Only a small selection of paintings can be attributed to him with certainty. Due to the lack of signed or documented works, most have been identified on the basis of an engraving by Lucas Vosterman (1595-1675) after de Coster, of a candlelit game of backgammon.1 It is clear that by the 1630s he was well established as a candlelight painter, as he was described as ‘Pictor Noctium’ (painter of night scenes) in Anthony van Dyck’s (1599-1641) Iconography (1626).2

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De Coster’s Judith and Holofernes in the Prado Museum indicates an affinity with Antonio Campi (1522-1587),3 which makes it plausible that de Coster spent some time in Italy.4 In any case, Adam de Coster was undoubtedly influenced by Caravaggio (1571-1610) and his Northern followers, such as Matthias Stom (ca. 1600 – after 1652) and Gerrit van Honthorst (1592-1652), to which the present painting, with the scene vividly lit by a single candle, also attests. He died in Antwerp in 1643.

 

Notes
1. Benedict Nicolson, “Notes on Adam de Coster,” The Burlington Magazine, May 1961, Vol. 103, no. 698, 186.
2. Ben van Beneden, From Titian to Rubens: Masterpieces from Antwerp and other Flemish Collections, exh. cat., (Venice; Antwerp: Snoeck, 2019), 211.
3. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, vol. I, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 100.
4. Nicolson, “Notes on Adam de Coster.” 186.

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Probably Johan van Susteren (1719-1764), Palace Susteren on the Meir (later Palace on the Meir), Antwerp;
Probably his sale; Antwerp, 26 July 1764, no. 65 (as “G. Honthorst”), sold for 31 guilders.
Possibly Joseph, Cardinal Fesch (1763-1839), Palazzo Falconieri (Libreria Prima Camera) by 1839.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, Amsterdam, 24 May 2016, lot 41 (as “circle of Gerrit van Honsthorst”);
Private collection, London;
Anonymous sale; Artcurial, Paris, 9 June 2021, lot 126;
The Klesch Collection

‘Venice, Palazzo Ducale, “From Titian to Rubens: Masterpieces from Antwerp and other Flemish Collections”, 5 September 2019 – 1 March 2020, no. 79.

Ben van Beneden, ed., From Titian to Rubens: Masterpieces from Antwerp and other Flemish Collections, exh. cat, Venice; Antwerp, 2019, no. 79, pp. 210-211. illustrated in colour p. 210.

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