STOSKOPFF, Sébastien
(b. 1597, Strasbourg, d. 1657, Idstein)

Still-Life of Glasses in a Basket

Oil on canvas, 52 x 63 cm
Musée de l'Oeuvre de Notre Dame, Strasbourg

The most neglected area of French 17th-century painting is that of still-life. It is still sometimes mistakenly assumed that the work of still-life painters was insignificant in their time compared with the grand designs of Claude and Poussin but, with one major exception, all the main still-life painters worked in Paris; they were not provincial artists working in obscurity away from the mainstream of the development of painting.

The exception was the obscure Sébastian Stoskopff, whose oeuvre has only recently been reconstructed. He was isolated in Strasbourg, the main town of the province of Alsace, which did not come under French rule until 1648 (although Strasbourg itself was not occupied until 1681). In the Middle Ages the artistic traditions of Alsace had their own flavour, being subjected to influences from central Europe, Italy, and, to a lesser extent, France. Stoskopff, however, was influenced by none of these traditions, being a totally isolated painter working in a style verging on the naive. Influences from such German still-life painters as Georg Flegel are discernible, but they merely be caused by the similarity of subject-matter rather than by any stylistic affinity.

Stoskopff art's is unique. One of the best examples of his work is the Still-Life of Glasses in a Basket. The tonality is monochrome, and the glasses in the basket are positioned in disarray. To this day, waitresses in restaurants in the region collect the empty drinking glasses by placing them heaped up in a basket rather than balancing them on a tray. There is therefore no complex iconography behind such a depiction; it is just a careful record of an everyday sight.

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