Matisse, Still Life After Jan Davidsz. de Heem’s ‘La Desserte', 1915
Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Table of Desserts ("La Desserte"), 1640
Matisse actually painted his version of this still-life after an academic copy that he made in 1893. I read a little about this painting in this article about a new Matisse exhibition at the MOMA. Looks like a fun show.
Although this isn't exactly what my brother-in-law was looking for (Matisse didn't abstract de Heem's still-life beyond recognition), it still is pretty fun. That being said - does anyone know of examples in which a 20th century painter abstracted an earlier work of art beyond recognition?