de jonckheere old masters

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Younger

Bouquet of flowers in a vase placed on a table covered with fruits and shells

Panel: 66 x 47 cm
Circa 1634


This painting by Ambrosius Bosschaert shows a bouquet of flowers arranged in a dark glass vase, accompanied by a lizard, a spider, two shells and various fruits, spread over a wooden table. The light, the tight composition and the high viewpoint are all elements that are employed to glorify the flowers and draw the viewer’s attention to their extraordinary realism and the artist’s perfect technical mastery.

Like many 17th century floral compositions, this bouquet combines meticulousness and an idealised reconstitution. While we can appreciate the extreme precision in the exact reproduction of each flower allowing us to identify them, the bouquet of flowers nevertheless represents the painter’s floral ideal. It is a pure reconstitution stemming directly from the artist’s imagination, who assembles the finest varieties he could have seen in a harmonious composition, regardless of the season when each of these flowers would have come into bloom.

There are most likely two aspects to this panel. While it is undoubtedly an ode to the beauty of nature, it can also be considered a vanitas. Through his work, the artist wishes to convey a message using various symbols which express the ephemeral nature of life. The most obvious symbol is probably the butterfly whose Greek name, "psyche”, means "soul”. A Christian would see in this butterfly escaping from its chrysalis, a symbol of the resurrection and salvation; an image portraying the soul leaving the body after death.

Thanks to the signature in the bottom left-hand corner, which corresponds to the calligraphy used by the artist as of 1634 when he settled in Utrecht, this painting is likely to date from Bosschaert's late period. But above all, this painting is characteristic of the master’s second period of activity as is shown in the density of the floral mass, the studied elegance of several sinuous lines with the presence of the lizard, and the saturated colours, where several blue touches skilfully break the preponderance of the other fiery tints.

Provenance :
Private collection.

Littérature :
E. Greindl, Les Peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle, Brussels, 1983, p. 161, cat.91.