This German artist, Sébastien Stoskopff, was born in the Alsace region of Europe on July 13, 1597, in the city of Strasbourg. His solid reputation as an impressive still life artist in the 1600s made him a very important character in German art history. Alsace had always been a German-speaking region of Europe, and although it was likely an independent country at the time that Stoskopff was born, it regularly changed hands between Austria-Hungary and France. The wars were sometimes due to religious differences between the Catholics and the Protestants, but the last change of hands occurred after World War II. Stoskopff’s art work was different than other artists of his generation in that he used very few pieces in his incredibly realistic “ontbjit” and other types of still life compositions. He had fallen into obscurity for centuries, until his work was brought out into the open again in the 1930s.
Sebastien Stoskopff's father became a city employee in Strasbourg in 1590, working as a driver of a one-horse carriage with responsibilities as a courier service and a royal escort when needed. From the time young Stoskopff had turned 15, he had shown a talent for drawing and painting, and his father wanted to help him to go forward in making art his career. So, in 1614 he petitioned the city council to help arrange an apprenticeship to a painter for his son. The council negotiated for a local Strasbourg painter and engraver, Friedrich Brentel, to train Stoskopff. Unfortunately the apprenticeship was a disappointment to Stoskopff, as he did not get to learn painting as he’d wanted to; Brentel was helping him to refine his drawing first.
The very next year, when Stoskopff was 18, his father died. His mother soon went to the Strasbourg council to ask that this time around her son should be sent to a different painter for training. The artist chosen was Daniel Soreau, who lived and worked in Hanau, 25 km from Frankfurt. Soreau was very hesitant to take on an unknown apprentice because he preferred to teach his own sons, relatives and friends; Stoskopff was a stranger to him. It took some time to get him to reluctantly agree and promised to make a famous artist out of him. Surprisingly, when Soreau died in 1619, Stoskopff took over the workshop and the students, becoming a master painter at only 22 years of age. One of the students, Joachim von Sandrart, became a successful artist and later wrote about Stoskopff in a book that he'd written on art. Sandrart wrote that Stoskopff had tried to get permission to live and work in Frankfurt, but was turned down, and so he had left Hanau and moved to Paris in 1622.
He lived mainly in Paris, but he did travel to Venice in 1629, as stated by Sandrart, who had met him in Venice. Again he went back to Paris and made two well known paintings there, called Summer (or The Five Senses) (1633) and Winter (or the Four Elements) (1633), before going back home to Strasbourg. It may have been the religious problems in Paris concerning the Catholics and Protestants, or maybe for familial reasons, but he settled in Strasbourg again in 1639. After achieving wealth and prestige there he got married to his sister’s stepdaughter in 1646.
He had joined the guild for artists and other craftsmen in Steltz, in 1640, but he had many issues with them because he did not want to be responsible for apprentices, as was the tradition. He preferred having a private studio to complete his work without distractions. In the 1650s, he moved into the city of Idstein, in Germany, where he had a long-standing and generous patron in the Count Johannes von Nassau und Idstein who lived there. Sandrart was a trusted artist and art dealer and so Stoskopff would have him contact the Count to deal or negotiate in Stoskopff’s stead.
On February 10, 1657, Sebastien Stoskopff died while drinking in a local ale house in Idstein. It was thought that he had drank himself to death, but 20 years later it was discovered that the owner of the alehouse had murdered him out of greed. The truth came out during a trial where a woman was being charged with witchcraft, and she confessed to knowing how Stoskopff had really died.
Stoskopff had been a prolific artist, and he was a master at portraying goblets, glassware and cups beautifully. He is now recognized for the skills he possessed for producing exemplary still life paintings; some of his surviving works can be found in the museum of Strasbourg, other national museums and the rest are in private collections. He did not leave any protégés, as Sandrart was technically not his student very long in Hanau, nor was he really influenced by other artists. His work stands on its own merit, apparently, just like he had wanted it to.