Lot 37
  • 37

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder
  • Still life of tulips, wild roses, cyclamen, yellow ranunculus, forget-me-not and other flowers, in a glass beaker
  • signed in monogram lower right
  • oil on copper


Anonymous sale (`The Property of a Gentleman'), London, Christie’s, 27 June 1969, lot 53, for 11,000 Guineas to Brod;

Dr Herbert Girardet, Essen, by 1970;

Thence by descent.


Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, 24 January – 30 March 1970; Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 24 April – 7 June 1970, Sammlung Herbert Girardet. Holländische und Flämische Meister, no. 10.


H. Vey, Sammlung Herbert Girardet. Holländische und Flämische Meister, exhibition catalogue, Essen 1970, p. 11, no. 10, reproduced.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Ambrosius Bosschaert Flowerpiece. This painting is on a very small copper panel. It appears particularly strong copper, which has survived undented. Much beautiful, pure, detail remains perfectly preserved, in the vase itself and almost throughout the bouquet of flowers. There has been a quite recent surface restoration and final spray revarnishing, with traces of a few past accretions faintly visible in places. These are largely in the background, for instance darkened old retouching in the top right corner and along the top edge, a streak of darkened older paint down the right upper background, and a rectangle of retouching on the left of the ledge. The monogram at lower right defers straightforwardly to Durer, while the left side of the ledge seems to have been quite broadly retouched for some reason hard to fathom. The bee remains intact and faint letters may perhaps exist nearby. Within the flowers the vivid red streaks within the central petal of the upper central tulip appear to have been strengthened, whereas the other tulips are beautifully pure and intact, as is clear under ultra violet light. The only other flower to have had some strengthening is the pink rose, as is frequently the case, that the defining pink outlines in such pink roses have often been vulnerable and lightly reinforced. All the delicate details in the leaves and tendrils throughout the painting remain exquisitely preserved however, as does the vase and the flowers elsewhere throughout. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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

This beautifully preserved flower piece is very little known, having only been exhibited once, in 1970, and only ever published in the catalogue of that exhibition. As Fred G. Meijer has kindly confirmed, it is an early work, dating from circa 1608–1610, and certainly painted while Bosschaert was still in Middelburg. The same – or at any rate a very similar – glass beaker with flared upper part is found in a number of early pictures, many of which include the same prominent yellow ranunculus.

With Jan Brueghel the Elder and to a lesser extent Roelandt Savery, Bosschaert was wholly responsible for the sudden outburst of flower painting in the Netherlands at the start of the seventeenth century. Unlike Brueghel and Savery however Bosschaert built a career almost entirely on the depiction of flowers and he was the first painter to do so. The causes for this remarkably rapid growth of interest in and production of flower painting from 1606 onwards are various. For Savery it was certainly the obsessive interest in the natural world of his patron in Prague, the Emperor Rudolf II, and the activities of a coterie of artists responding to it in media other than oil painting: for example in works on vellum by Jacques De Gheyn, Joris Hoefnagel and others, and in prints. For Jan Brueghel a key impetus came from his loyal patrons in Italy who had earlier promoted his career in the depiction of landscapes. In the work of these artists, and in that of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder in Middelburg, their developments as flower painters can be charted in a succession of dated works from 1606 onwards.

It is generally accepted that Bosschaert is likely to have encountered Jan Brueghel and his work in 1606, because his flower pieces from that year onwards show an awareness of Brueghel’s style, and this contact must have been renewed in subsequent years, because as Bosschaert’s highly personal style develops, awareness of what Brueghel was doing is detectable in his work.2 That Bosschaert’s artistic personality was amenable to influence becomes clear from the works painted upon his arrival in Utrecht with his brother-in-law Balthasar van der Ast, which respond immediately to what Savery was doing there following his return from Prague. In August 1619 he moved to Breda where he settled. He died in The Hague in 1621 while delivering a flower piece.

Note on Provenance
Herbert Girardet was the scion of an ancient Huguenot family. His ancestor Wilhelm Girardet (1838–1918) founded a printing works in Essen and later became a newspaper publisher. Herbert Girardet assembled a superb collection of Dutch and Flemish pictures in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. He had a special affection for small-scale works on copper, including two outstanding paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder, and the present work, which was one of his last purchases, acquired the year before the exhibition of his collection.