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.
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