This is a typical and highly finished work of the 1660s by Willem van Aelst. By the time he painted the present still life he had settled in Amsterdam for nine years, having been brought up and trained in Delft, probably by his uncle Evert van Aelst (1602-57), where he entered the painters guild in 1643. His peripatetic youth next took him to France, from 1645 to 1649, and then until 1656 he worked in Florence as court painter to Ferdinando II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Here he met and worked closely with Otto Marseus van Schrieck with whom he returned to Delft in 1656, before settling in Amsterdam the following year. It was during and after his Italian sojourn that he began to sign paintings, including this one, with the italianate form of his name, 'Guill.mo van Aelst'. He became the teacher of several notable still-life painters, including Rachel Ruysch and Maria van Oosterwijk, and was held in great esteem both during and after his lifetime; Samuel van Hoogstraaten, a contemporary, writing of him, "[He] so excelled at art, and copied so well from life, that his painted works appeared not to be a picture, but life itself."
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