This unusually large work on copper combines the classic elements of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s paintings: a luxuriant, harmoniously balanced bouquet; an exotic Chinese porcelain vase; and rare shells strewn along the ledge. The artist frequently drew inspiration from botanical gardens (Middelburg, where he spent much of his working life, was particularly famed for its botanical gardens) and from the luxury goods imported into the Netherlands by the Dutch East India Company.
The flowers in this arrangement, which include lilies, tulips, roses, and carnations, are painted with almost scientific precision. Bosschaert’s choice of a smooth copper support enhances the extraordinary detail of his brushwork. The bouquet itself, however, is a fiction: these flowers do not bloom at the same time, and would have been far too precious to cut for temporary display.
Detail from Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, ‘A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase’, 1609-10 © The National Gallery, London
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