17th century Flemish and Dutch paintings

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Joseph Coomans
A difficult choice
Oil on panel : 56 X 45 cm
Signed lower left
Unsold at Christie’s New York, 23/04/03
Estimate : 30.000 – 40.000 $ (+ buyer’s premium) = 27.000 – 36.000 € (+ BP)

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Painting for Sale
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Coomans, Héva
"A difficult choice"

In short

Finally, a female painter!

The Belgian painter Joseph Coomans settled in 1855 in Naples. His visits of nearby Pompei would form a lasting inspiration. In 1860 he moved to Paris where that same year his youngest child, a daughter, our painter, was born. Both Héva and her older sister Diana studied painting with their father, who was a successful academic painter. Both moved in 1910 permanently to New York City. Joseph and his daughters specialised in these sweet, detailed reconstructions of ancient Roman life.

Our painting, which was strongly influenced by a similar composition by Héva’s successful father, is set in Pompei, shortly before the town was destructed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. A mother lets her small child choose between a tambourine and a doll.

About Héva Coomans

Belgian painter
Paris 1860 - 1939 New York City

Coomans was born in Paris as the youngest daughter of the painter Pierre Olivier Joseph Coomans (1816–1889). From his first marriage he had a son, Oscar-Jean (1848–1884), who was a poet. From his second marriage with Adelaide Lacroix (1838–1884) he had two daughters, who both also became painters: Diana (1861 – 1952) and our Héva. Our Héva was clearly the best of the two, although she never reached the high level (nor prices) of her father.

Like her father and sister, she specialised in academic, detailed scenes recording the life of the Roman inhabitants of Pompei shortly before the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Her father, Joseph Coomans (1816 – 1889) had a rather adventurous and interesting life. He trained as a Romantic painter in Belgium and he became (at the demand of Queen Louise-Marie of Orléans, wife of the First Belgian King, Leopold I) a military painter in Algeria (1843-1845), where he was influenced by Orientalism. He also covered the Crimean War in 1854 and 1855, before settling near Naples in 1855, where he got inspired by the fresco paintings discovered in and around Pompei.

In 1860 he moved to Paris where he was successful with his historic, highly-finished views of ancient Roman life and with his exotic portraits of young women.

As he sold well in the United States, he travelled there with his family between October 1888 and June 1889, staying in Philadelphia and in New York. He returned to Paris and died a few months later, 31st of December 1889.

Both sisters, Diana and Héva, moved permanently to New York in 1910, where they became well introduced. Both joined the Long Island High Society as listed artists.

 About our painting

The composition, subject and style of our painting is strongly influenced by “A difficult choice” by Heva’s father, Joseph: a Roman mother makes her small child choose between a small dagger and a doll. That signed, but not dated painting by Joseph remained unsold at Christie’s New York, 23/04/03 with an estimate of 30.000 / 40.000 $. Héva has replaced in our painting the dagger by a tambourine. 

Why should you buy this painting?

Because it is the perfect Pompeian scene: detailed and sweet, but not kitschy or soggy like much of the so-called “Art Pompier”.

Comparative paintings
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