Catalogue entry

Edward Collier active 1662-1706

T03853 A Trompe l'Oeil of Newspapers, Letters and Writing Implements on a Wooden Board c.1699

Oil on canvas 588 x 462 (23 3/16 x 18 3/16) relined on canvas 635 x 510 (25 x 20 1/8)
Inscribed 'ffor | Mr. E. Collier | Painter at | London' on paper centre left; other papers variously inscribed (see below)
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Prov: ...; anon, sale, Christie's 16 March 1984 (48, repr.) ₤9,000 bt Leggatt for Tate Gallery
Lit: H. Hilberry, 'Painting Illusions by Edwaert Colyer', Indianapolis Art Association Bulletin, vol.49, Feb. 1963, pp.12-17; E.K. Waterhouse, Painting in Britain 1530 to 1790, 1978, pp.115-16; G. Saunders, 'Trompe l'Oeil: Visual Deception in European Art', The V & A Album 5, 1986, pp.59-67

The trompe l'oeil letter rack with notes, newspapers, writing implements, seals and combs was one of Collier's favourite subjects. Many variations of it are known, with similar objects slightly differently arranged but always with different dates and printed texts. At the top of this rack is a folded London newspaper dated 'Monday, May 15 ...' with a report datelined 'Madrid, April 29, N. S.' (the text is not designed to be legible). Alongside it is a folded broadsheet printed with an address presented by both Houses of Parliament to the King (presumably William III), datelined 'Fryday the Tenth ...'. In addition to the folded paper with the painter's inscription, there is a letter bearing a circular stamp 'NO|129' and sealed with three pieces of red wax, one of them impressed with a profile head, and a folded paper inscribed 'Memorye'. Other items are a quill pen, a penknife with an ivory handle, a stick of red sealing wax, and a tortoiseshell comb. All objects are held by three red leather straps against a light pine board made up of two planks.

Little is known about the painter who signed himself 'Edwaert Colyer' in his Dutch works but later anglicised his name to Edward Collier. He was born in Breda but the year of his birth is not known. His earliest work dates from 1662 and he entered the St Luke's Guild at Leyden in 1673. Many of his vanitas and trompe l'oeil paintings include English texts and objects and seem to have been painted for the English market; a number of paintings dated for the years 1695-8 bear inscriptions describing him as a 'Painter at London', indicating that he spent some time here. Although T03853 bears no year, the only Monday to fall on 15 May within a practicable span of years was in 1699; on similar evidence a still-life in the Victoria and Albert Museum (P.23-1951), also inscribed 'Mr E. Collier Painter at London', can be dated to c.1702-3. Although many authorities give his death as before 1702, his last known painting is dated 1706 and describes him as a painter at Leyden (Sotheby's 16 Nov. 1949, lot 52).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.11-12