Vase of Flowers in a Stone Niche
Oil on panel. 71 x 52 cm.
A round serpentine vase in a niche, filled with splendid blooms: Yellow iris, red peonies, blue cornflowers, yellow daffodils, white and red roses and tulips in a variety of colours and forms. Fred Meijer of the RKD in the Hague considers this piece to be an authentic work of Ossias Beert, although it was long considered to be from the circle of Ambrosius Bosschaert.
The painting is characteristic of early Netherlandish floral still lifes shortly after 1600: The stiff and symmetrical arrangement of the flowers, the niche in which they have been placed and the unnaturally elongated stems, designed to display each blossom to its best advantage. The erroneous ascription to Middelburg and the circle of Ambrosius Bosschaert is understandable considering that he was one of the pioneers of this genre. However, some elements of the composition point to the Amsterdam based painter Ossias Beert, such as the serpentine vase and the flat rose leaves behind the blooms. Ossias Beert presumably discovered this genre through Jan Brueghel, who introduced the floral still life to Antwerp shortly after 1600.
It is not known quite how the floral still life developed into an independent genre, or why it became so popular in both the north and south of the Netherlands so shortly after its invention. However, Ossias Beert's work provides several possible reasons: The beauty and costliness of the flowers, some of which had to be imported from overseas, some of which were specially bred, made these blooms worthy of depiction, and this opulent appearance was often further enhanced by their presentation in precious vases and bowls. The precise illustration of the colours and textures of flowers also presented Dutch painting's exceptional ability for realism. The presentation of the arrangement in a niche further served to display these illusionist qualities, an effect which in this case is enhanced by the butterfly at the edge of the niche which serves to blur the lines between the painted image and reality.
Ossias Beert was primarily famed for his dessert still lifes, presented on tables richly laden with oysters, sweetmeats and flowers in precious vessels. In his floral paintings, he often presented the blooms in various such vases and dishes arranged into elegant compositions. Beert, who worked in Antwerp his entire life, was one of the earliest exponents of Flemish still life painting and had a significant impact on this genre.
Written confirmation of the attribution by Fred Meijer, RKD, The Hague, 10.2.2014 (RKD no. 14687).
Sotheby´s, London, 3.12.1960, lot 95 (as Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder). - With art dealer P. de Boer, Amsterdam. - German private collection (since 1963).
Sam Segal: Flowers and Nature. Netherlandish Flower Painting of Four Centuries. Amstelveen 1990, S. 183, Nr. 50b.