WILLEM ADRIANUS FABRI (1853-1925): Overdoor painting

Signed below left, oil on panel, dimensions 160 x 75 cm. Price € 1875.

This beautiful overdoor painting by Willem Adrianus Fabri (1853-1925) was probably situated above a double panel door (porte-brisée) of a monumental house. It was most likely manufactured during the period when Fabri was working for the Rotterdam firm C.H. Eckhart. We date this painting between 1890 and 1905. The material used for the carrier indicates the involvement of this furniture factory.

Closer inspection of the carrier by our restorer revealed that pressed cardboard had been used, an early form of pressed sheet material, quite solid and about as heavy as solid wood. We are familiar with this material as a carrier of sculptured and upper door pieces. A trademark of the Eckhart company was the use of paper stucco (carton-pierre) that was easy to model for the manufacture of ceiling ornaments, among other things. A well-known example is the ceiling of the Empire Hall and salon of Queen Wilhelmina in the former royal Soestdijk Palace, the ceilings of which were decorated by Willem Fabri and his employees.

Pressed cardboard and paper stucco were probably used partly from the point of view of cost savings. In addition, cardboard will remain more stable over time than a wooden panel.

The depiction in the painting is largely typical of Willem Fabri's trompe-l'oeil fireplace and overdoor paintings. It shows a still life with a macaw and crown pigeon in a landscape with a classical ruin under a beautifully painted cloudy sky. The macaw is placed with spread wings on the pedestal and looks along a diagonal at the crown pigeon. Below the macaw, an ensemble of fruit is piled up on a silver platter with a wine pitcher next to it. The draped cloth on the right in the foreground functions as a repoussoir, meant to create depth.

Between 1890-1920 Willem Fabri was one of the most important decorative painters of interiors in the Netherlands who practiced the so-called genre styles. Quite a lot of his work has been preserved in palaces (‘t Loo, Soestdijk, Noordeinde, Lange Voorhout), houses (Rotterdam, Delft, Dordrecht, The Hague, Utrecht) and government buildings (including the ballroom with Pompeian paintings in Paushuize in Utrecht).

Decorative paintings by Fabri are rarely seen on the market. Both the paintwork and the panel itself are in excellent condition. Due to its use as a decorative piece, it was never framed. Some minor damage caused by the original mounting and movement is visible on the outline of the panel. On the last photo, an example is shown of how an originally decorative overdoor painting can find a new purpose as an attractive piece of art.

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