Juan Van der Hamen y Leon
Madrid 1596 - c. 1632
A Chocolate Service with a Wooden Box of Packed Chocolate, two lacquered Gourd Drinking Bowls, a Wooden Milk Whisk, Napkins, a Spoon and Pastries on a Pewter Plate
The picture is inscribed on the reverse: no. 17./Vanderhamen y/ Leoni * Juan 1632 / no. Madrid 1596. no 163'.
We are grateful to Professor William Jordan for confirming the attribution and for dating the painting to circa 1621. Professor Peter Cherry also concurs with the attribution.
The present work is a recently rediscovered painting and a rare addition to the oeuvre of Juan Van der Hamen y León. This wonderful composition represents a chocolate service: a round, wooden box tilted at an angle, two black lacquer drinking cups and a wooden whisk for frothing melted chocolate. By the 17th century, chocolate became a popular commodity following the Spanish colonization of Mexico. The napkins and the drinking cups are also reminiscent of the New World with their mimic patterns; these were very much in vogue at the time and the cups may be the traditional Mesoamerican jicara made from a gourd. We are grateful to Jaime Barrachina at the Museu del Castell de Peralada for his supposition that our painting is the earliest depiction of chocolate drinking items in Spanish painting.
Antonio Ponce, one of the most promising assistants in Van der Hamen’s workshop, quoted his master’s composition in a larger still life, see below. In fact, in his early career, Ponce was known to create still life pastiches, combining various elements, each of his master’s invention. The present work, with its sensitivity of brushwork, is without a doubt a lost original by Van der Hamen which his student repeated for his own compositions.
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 12 January 1996, lot 131 (as Francisco Barrera);
Private Collection, USA