Charles Collins

Lobster on a Delft Dish


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Not on display

Charles Collins c.1680–1744
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 705 × 910 mm
Purchased 1981

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Collins was an Irishman who specialized in painting birds, game and fowl, and produced numerous large studies of birds in watercolour. The lobster's strange shape was much favoured by the Netherlandish painters of sumptuous displays of food and wine. Their paintings celebrate and sometimes moralise over sensual pleasures, and were thought particularly suitable for hanging over sideboards and in eating rooms. Though clearly inspired by them, Collins presents here an unusually simplified and startlingly decorative version of the theme, showing the cooked lobster waiting in lone splendour on a bare larder shelf, its colour set off by the blue-and-white English or Irish delftware dish.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03301 Lobster on a Delft Dish 1738

Oil on canvas 705×910 (27 3/4×35 11/16)
Inscribed ‘Charles Collins. Fec.' 1738’ along left edge of shelf
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
PROVENANCE ...; anon. sale, Sotheby's 12 November 1980 (47, repr.) bt Rafael Valls, from whom bt by the Tate Gallery

The lobster, its bright red shell powdered here and there with the scummy evidence of its death by boiling water, lies on what is probably an English delftware dish (i.e. of tin-glazed earthenware, the design in this case likely to be after a Chinese porcelain original); the dish waits on the bare stone shelf of a larder. T03301 derives from the Dutch still-life tradition, though a Dutch artist would almost certainly have assembled more ingredients, celebrating or possibly moralising over sensual pleasures. Among the many Dutch still-life which include a lobster, often on a dish which is slightly tilted (as in T03301) to show off the creature's extraordinary shape, William Kalf's ‘Still Life with the Drinking-Horn of the Saint Sebastian Archers' Guild’ in the National Gallery (no.6444) is among the more flamboyant.

A still-life by Collins of a lobster on a (?) pewter dish on a table, with a loaf of bread, flagons of wine, etc. (610×749, 24×29 1/2) was with Galerie Christa Cackett, Basle, 1985–6 (fig.5). A larger painting by Collins entitled ‘Lobster, Fruit and Parrot on a Table’ (990×1245, 39×49), sold Christie's 23 January 1953, lot 60, bt Hart, present whereabouts unknown) is stated to be signed and dated 1736, two years earlier than T03301.

Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988


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