Although van Oosterwyck's work borrows elements from Jan Davidsz. de Heem, with whom she studied according to her biographer Arnold Houbraken, her personal style is more sober and reticent in presentation. This was no doubt a reflection of her own pious character; she died unmarried and was 'modest and unusually religious'.1 She was reputedly a slow worker and, as a result, paintings by her are rare, though she did have a rather considerable royal clientele including Louis XIV, King Jan Sobieski of Poland, and Emperor Leopold I.2 The motifs of the sunflower and the striped Canary grass seem to have been favorites and recur in several of her flower pieces. The present work may, for example, be closely compared to the Flower Piece with Shells painted for the Elector of Saxony, and now in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden (reproduced in P. Mitchell, European Flower Painters, 1973, p. 192, fig. 269).
This picture once formed part of the Bürgenstock collection, a remarkable private collection assembled by Swiss hotelier Friedrich Frey-Fürst. Many of the works from the collection, which focused primarily on Dutch and Flemish pictures, adorned the walls of his hotels, the most famous of which being the namesake of the collection, Bürgenstock, which overlooks Lake Lucerne. Frey-Fürst amassed the majority of his art in the 1930s, and although its strength lay in its Northern pictures, among which the present canvas ranked as one of the finest, he also collected a number of Italian pictures. Upon his death, Frey-Fürst's son Fritz Frey inherited the entire group and subsequently sold a portion of it, including the present work, in London, Sotheby's, 11 December 1996.
1. A. Houbraken, De Groote Schouburgh, II, Amsterdam 1718-1721, p. 216.
2. B. Haak, The Golden Age: Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, New York 1984, p. 454.
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