Lot 59
  • 59

Rachel Ruysch

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Rachel Ruysch
  • Still life of flowers with a nosegay of roses, marigolds, larkspur, a bumblebee and other insects
  • signed and dated on the ledge, lower right: Rachel Ruysch / 1695
  • oil on canvas


Collection of H.R.H. Princess Arthur of Connaught (1891-1959), Duchess of Fife, London (her label affixed to the reverse);
Private collection, UK, 1959-1985;
Anonymous sale, "Poperty of a Lady of Title," London, Sotheby's, 3 April 1985, lot 70;
David Koetser, 1993.


Berlin, Charlottenburg Palace, International Arts and Antiques, 1988, no. 93;
Birmingham 1995, no. 18;
New Orleans 1997, no. 46;
Baltimore 1999, no. 45.


C. Grimm, Stilleben: die niederländischen und deutschen Meister, Stuttgart 1988, p. 112;
C.W. Aigner, Stilleben, vol. VIII, Linz 1992, p. 59;
J. Mitchell and Son Ltd., Pick of the Bunch from the Fitzwilliam Museum, London 1993, p. 36, reproduced fig. 6;
Alabama Art Monthly, 2, September 1995, p. 8, reproduced;
M. Berardi, Science into Art: Rachel Ruysch's early development as a still-life painter, PhD thesis, University of Pittsburgh 1998, p. 359, note 616;
Baltimore 1999, pp. 104-106, cat. no. 45, reproduced p. 105.


The following condition report has been provided by Kirsten Younger (212-288-4370, kyounger@nyc.rr.com), an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. The painting is in very good condition overall. The canvas support is lined and it is flat and stable. The flowers and foliage are exceptionally well preserved throughout, including the delicate pink roses, the blue and white columbine and the fine details of the butterfly and other insects. There is a small area of paint loss in the left side of the large white flower and there are a few tiny spots of thinness in the orange petals of the marigolds. The signature and date in the lower right corner are in good condition. In the background there are some areas of thinness along the canvas weave to the right of the butterfly, in the ledge to the right of the large pink rose, in the lower right corner, and along the left edge near the top and bottom corners. The varnish is clear and the surface gloss is even.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Rachel Ruysch, widely regarded as one of the most successful still-life artists of the Dutch Golden Age, was the first female Netherlandish artist to win international recognition. Born in Amsterdam in 1664, Ruysch began training with the still-life painter Willem van Aelst (circa 1626 - 1683) age fifteen and continued to paint well into her eighties.

The abundant nosegay of roses, marigolds, and larkspur sits delicately on a ledge. The dark backdrop and shaded outer flowers heighten the beauty of the illuminated central buds. A plump pink rosebud, a nest of soft petals, sits amongst deeply veined leaves and thorny stems. No fewer than twelve creatures including a bumble bee, dragonfly, and moth, its wings milky white, roam the terrain of the nosegay. The meticulously rendered ecosystem bursts out of the frame with life. 

Ruysch frequently employed the nosegay, or posy motif, a testament to her teacher, van Aelst, who pioneered this type of composition. As her career progressed, Ruysch developed a more distinctive aesthetic, favoring an increasingly lighter color palette and more decorative style. Her intimate knowledge of the minute creatures seen in this composition is symptomatic of both the culture in which she lived and her particular upbringing. The recent invention of the microscope engendered increased curiosity in naturalia amongst artists and scientists alike.  Moreover, her father, Frederick Ruysch, was a celebrated professor of botany and anatomy, his wunderkammern a popular destination for visiting dignitaries. Access to such curiosity cabinets of preserved specimens as well as her father’s scientific publications would have enabled careful examination of insects and moths which Ruysch executes with scientific precision in paintings such as this one.