Balthasar van der Ast
Middelburg 1594 - Delft 1657
Still life of Flowers in a Vase.
Oil on Copper, 23.6 x 17.1 cm
Signed and dated lower left: B. vander. Ast. 1622
Sale Amsterdam, Paul Brandt, 6 June 1961, no. 29 ;
Terry-Engel Gallery, London, in 1964 ;
With Douwes, Amsterdam-London, in 1965 ;
Sale London, Sotheby's, 9 December 1987, no. 67 ;
With P. de Boer, Amsterdam, in 1989 ;
Gallery Friederike Pallamar, Vienna;
Sale Artcurial, Paris, 13 November 2019, lot 76, reproduced.
Weltkunst, Munich, 15 May 1961, p. 5, repr.;
"Notable works of art now on the market", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CVI, London, 1964, pl. 1 .
London, Terry-Engel Gallery, 3 November - 18 December 1964, no. 3 ;
Niederländische Meisterwerke des 17. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, Gallery F. Pallamar, 15 October - 30 November 1990, no. 2.
Balthasar van der Ast was born in Middelburg in 1593 and 1594. He was orphaned when his widowed father Hans died in 1609. After his father's death he may have lived with his older sister Maria and her husband, the prominent still-life painter Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621). He seems to have accompanied Bosschaert when the couple moved from Middelburg to Bergen op Zoom in 1615, and a few years later to Utrecht where Jan Davidsz. de Heem was one of his pupils. Van der Ast settled in Delft in 1632 where he joined the city's Saint Luke's Guild, and married Margrieta Jans van Burn in 1633. Van der Ast died in Delft in December 1657 and was buried in the Oude Kerk there.
Van der Ast was most probably trained by his brother-in-law, as his early works clearly show Bosschaert’s influence. His earliest signed and dated work dates from 1610. This early still-life of flowers, insects, snails and fruits resemble early flower painters Ambrosius Bosschaert and Jan Brueghel the Elder (1658-1625). His touch was less exquisite than Bosschaert's, but his range was wider, his paintings often including fruit and shells as well as flowers. Van der Ast specialized in still-lifes of flowers and fruit, as well as painting a number of remarkable shell still lifes. He is considered to be a pioneer in the genre of shell painting. His still lifes often contain insects and lizards.
The present painting is a lovely example of an early flower painting; a tulip, roses, a carnation, an Iris and other flowers are delicately painted. This carefully arranged bouquet of flowers suggests that it was painted from life. However, when one studies the arrangement more closely it becomes apparent that most of these flowers did not bloom at the same time. This is typical of early flower compositions. Flowers at the time were quite valuable, and not readily available. As a result, flower specialists would often work on numerous flower still-lives at the same time- adding a flower that was available to various compositions. Typically, the proportions of one flower to the next was not always realistic. Balthasar for this flower still-life painted on copper, typically used by artist to give their paint extra vibrance while enabling them to paint with immaculate attention to detail.