Alexander Coosemans

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Still life with lobster and bread

Alart, or Alexander Coosemans (name variations: Allicksander Cosmans and Alexander Cosmans) (1627, Antwerp –1689, Antwerp) was a Flemish Baroque painter specialized in still lifes.


Very little is known about the life of Coosemans. He was a pupil of Jan Davidsz de Heem, the leading still life painter in the Netherlands, in 1641. He became a master in the Guild of St. Luke of Antwerp in 1645.[1]

He was in Rome between 1649 and 1651. He returned to Antwerp in 1651. It is believed he remained there until his death.[1]


Alexander Coosemans painted mainly flower pieces, fruit, and inanimate subjects. He also painted vanitas still lifes, pronkstillevens and game pieces. The only known dated work by his hand is a Still Life with Fruit and a Parrot, which is a work after de Heem (Phillips Auctioneers, London, 10 April 1990).[1]

His still-life paintings are generally more varied and crowded than those of his master de Heem. He also preferred dramatic light effects in artificial settings which contrasts with de Heem's use of harmonious colour patterns and subtle tonalities to create an illusion of naturalness.[2] His residence in Italy clearly influenced his style.[3]

Allegory of the Eucharist

As was common in 17th-century Antwerp, Coosemans regularly collaborated with other artists. There are some collaborations with him on so-called ‘garland paintings’. Garland paintings are a type of still life invented in Antwerp and whose earliest practitioner was Jan Brueghel the Elder. These paintings typically show a flower garland around a devotional image or portrait. Garland paintings were usually collaborations between a still life and a figure painter.[4] A number of garland paintings are known in which Coosemans painted the flower or fruit garland surrounding a cartouche with a depiction of a bust, crucifix or other religious symbol. An example is A sculpted bust in a niche surrounded with swags of fruit (Christie's on 1 April 2008 in Amsterdam, lot 151) of which it is not known who the collaborating artist is. Another example of this genre is the Fruits surrounding a niche with a crucifix (Cornette de Saint Cyr, Bertrand, -10-25 October 2013, Paris).[5] These garland paintings often carry religious meanings. For instance in the Allegory of the Eucharist (Musée de Tessé, Le Mans) the garland painted by Coosemans around a ciborium with the host includes many symbolic elements: a cornucopia symbolizes the bounty of creation and the providence of god, the stalks of wheat and the grapes are a reference to the Christian communion during which bread and wine are consumed while the pomegranate and the quince are symbols of plenty as well as of fertility and immortality.[6]

Another collaborative effort of Coosemans is the composition Double Portrait of a boy and a girl as Cupid and Ceres next to a Stil life of fruits and flowers (Sotheby's on 28 January 2010 in New York, lot 279). His collaborator was Theodoor van Thulden who painted the staffage.[7]

A great number of Coosemans' still lifes can be characterized as 'vanitas' still lifes or 'pronkstillevens' (ostentatious still lifes). The still lifes are believed to carry a moralistic, hidden meaning. For instance, in the Still life on a partly draped table the various objects convey hidden meanings: the grapes and the glass of red wine refer to Christ and his blood, the bread references the Last Supper of Christ and the Christian communion and the silver vessel looks like a ciborium that holds the consecrated hosts during the Catholic Mass. The crabs, just like the lobsters in his other still lifes, refer the resurrection of Christ since these crustaceans must, in order to grow, loose their carapace and start a new life. The partly peeled lemon stands for the various stages of human life and its vulnerability and suffering.[8]

His style was followed by Hendrik Schoock.[1]