GEORG HINZ (Altenau 1630 – Hamburg 1688)
A Still Life on a Marble Table, Partly Covered with a Red Velvet Cloth
oil on canvas
35 ½ x 32 inches (90.2 x 81.2 cm.)
Frost & Reed Ltd, London, 1945 (as by Barent van der Meer) from whom purchased by
Private Collection, London and thus by descent in the family until the present time
Unlike Holland and Flanders, Germany had little if any tradition of still life painting during the seventeenth century. Often Dutch artists, rather than local painters, were commissioned by German collectors for such paintings. Georg Hinz (also spelled Hainz) was one of the few German artists who produced attractive still lifes of high quality.
The composition of this elegant still life is one of Georg Hinz’s standard formulas. Many of his still lifes contain a similar display on a marble table partly covered by a costly tablecloth, either an oriental tapestry or a soft, shiny velvet one, as seen here. He often placed a large Chinese porcelain dish of fruit, tilted left, on the right side of the canvas and had a tall, richly decorated object dominating the center of the composition. That object may be a silver-gilt cup and cover, a sculpted vase or, as in this case, an elaborate wineglass. The fragile and intricately modelled tall glass in this painting is in the full style of the Venetian glass artists, but could have been produced in many places in Europe, since the Venetians and their craft had spread all over the continent in the course of the first decades of the seventeenth century. It may just as well be that the glass Hinz shows us is a product of his own fantasy, based on models he had seen, since none of the glasses in his paintings are identical. Hinz’s style and handling of still life subjects are rather consistent from the mid-1660’s on, and as a result, it is almost impossible to date a still life such as this one with any accuracy.
Little is known about the life of Georg Hinz. It is unknown where or by whom he was trained as an artist. He is known to have lived and worked in Hamburg from 1663 until his death in 1688. In 1668 he acquired citizen’s rights in that city. He had a workshop there and we may assume that some of the lesser variants and copies of his work were produced by assistants under his guidance. The still life painter Ernst Stuven (c. 1657-1712), who later had some success in Holland, was his pupil. The painter and author Joachim von Sandrart, in his Teutsche Academie, published in 1675, mentioned that ‘Hinz findet gleichfalls unter den berühmten Maler platz, ist auch in stilligenden Sachen sehr gut’ (…also belongs among the famous painters and is very good at painting inanimate objects). At that time, Sandrart reports, Hinz was at the height of his career. He was probably the first active still life painter in Hamburg. Hinz is also known to have produced history pieces, but no examples are known to us today. A painted ceiling of an allegorical scene in Hamburg was lost to fire in 1842.
Georg Hinz obviously had a penchant for costly objects. The decoration of the two Chinese porcelain dishes in this painting belongs to the transitional period of the middle of the seventeenth century. These dishes were desirable modern objects, recently imported from China, probably by the Dutch. The jug to the left, decorated with ivory carvings, is a typical German object. Hinz may have based it on an example by his contemporary Joachim Henne (active c. 1663-1707), who was a great specialist in this field. Hinz portrayed several of that sculptor’s works in his well-known paintings of showcases (Kunstkammerregale) of which there are excellent examples in Hamburg and Schloss Sancoussi, Berlin.
While the objects Hinz depicted are of a high quality and luxury status, the compositions of his still lifes are often restricted in their opulence. He usually concentrated on a few items in each painting, which he would render to their best advantage – well arranged and dramatically lit. In this respect he reveals the influence of the Dutch still life specialist, Willem Kalf (1619-1693), which started to spread soon after Kalf had settled in Amsterdam in the early 1650s. The Amsterdam artist Barent van der Meer (1659-1692/1703), to whom this still life was attributed at one time, was also influenced by Kalf. Like Georg Hinz, Kalf preferred a dark background against which his objects could stand out. While Kalf aimed for a soft sheen combined with bright highlights, Hinz’s style is defined by sharp outlines and high linear definition, which is clearly manifest in the present painting.
Fred G. Meijer