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François Bonvin, 'Still Life with Book, Papers and Inkwell', 1876

Key facts
Full title Still Life with Book, Papers and Inkwell
Artist François Bonvin
Artist dates 1817 - 1887
Date made 1876
Medium and support Oil on zinc
Dimensions 36.2 × 48.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Sir Hugh Lane Bequest, 1917, The National Gallery, London. In partnership with Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.
Inventory number NG3234
Location On loan: Long Loan to The Hugh Lane (2019 - 2031), Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ireland
Collection Main Collection
Still Life with Book, Papers and Inkwell
François Bonvin

This small oil painting is typical of the still lifes which, together with scenes of everyday life, form the core of Bonvin’s art. His still lifes often include objects associated with a particular profession. The two coins and what might be a ledger book suggest bookkeeping is the profession here. Inkwells, quill pens, books and papers all appear in the pictures of schoolboys, often working at their desks, which Bonvin painted between 1873 and 1879 (the period when this picture was painted), but the spectacles imply an adult is using the items we see here.

Bonvin’s paintings recall those of Chardin in the previous century, but also show his familiarity with seventeenth-century Dutch and Spanish painting. This picture is unusual as it is painted on zinc, but the carefully modulated lighting and subtle use of warm complementary colours are characteristic of Bonvin.

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