Abraham Gibbens

active 1629 – 1635

A Still Life of Wild Strawberries in a Wan-Li Bowl


Oil on Panel


Still Life


15.6(h) x 19(w) cms


Abraham, or Abiah Gibbens was one of the most interesting still life painters working in the early years of the 17th century. Of Flemish descent, Gibbens is recorded as having been elected a member of the Corporation of Saint-Germain-des-Prés on the 26th March 1629. His work is very close in style to that of his French contemporaries Augustin Bouquet, François Garnier and Louise Moillon. There is also an obvious debt to the Flemish painter Jacob van Hulsdonck and the Dutch artist Isaac Soreau. Fruit and flowers are carefully placed on stone ledges, they are always delicately coloured and well drawn. All the dated works by Gibbens that have survived are dated 1635.


The Dutch name for Chinese porcelain 'kraak' or 'kraak porselein' originally came from the early Portuguese carrack trading ships which were captured as war booty. In the seventeenth century porcelain began to arrive in large quantities in the Dutch Republic as the Dutch became the pre-eminent global traders. While blue and white porcelain was originally the prized possession of the wealthiest European elites, Dutch merchants' brisk trade eventually allowed porcelain to enter the homes of middle-class burghers.

The bowl in our picture likely comes from the Wan-Li period (1572 - 1620). The deep bowl with its slightly everted foliate rim and painted vertical panels are a typical product of this period. Decorations around the bowl are often floral and usually have dots between the panels. Painted inside the bowl there would often be the same pattern repeated on the walls and a bird at the bottom. Decorated around our bowl we see flowers and round fruit - perhaps plums.

Strawberries and their flowers were a particularly favoured accoutrement to kraak bowls in Dutch still life painting. A composition such as Gibbens' - often as part of a larger still life composition - can be seen in the oeuvre of Jan van Kessel I, Jacob van Hulsdonck and Adriaen Coorte.