Lot 5
  • 5

Balthasar van der Ast

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Balthasar van der Ast
  • Still life of variegated tulips in a ceramic vase, with a wasp, a dragonfly, a butterfly and a lizard
  • signed and dated lower right: . B . VandeR . ast. 1625
  • oil on oak panel


Private collection, Belgium, since circa 1900, from where recently acquired by the present owner.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Balthasar van der Ast. Flowerpiece. Signed and dated 1625. This painting is on a fine panel in one piece of oak with broad bevelling. It appears to have always remained beautifully flat and stable. There has been one small knock from the back at the centre of the top edge causing two little brief cracks barely a centimetre apart, but no paint loss. The paint surface has clearly been spared any restoration for at least a century and despite the discoloured old varnish the flowers can nevertheless be seen to be finely intact and unworn. One tiny lost flake can be seen in the tulip at upper right, but this seems more likely to have been due to a minute accidental knock than to flaking as there is no other sign of raised or loose paint, past or present. The signature and the vase are also perfectly preserved. There does appear to be a patch of old retouching in the dark background at lower left beside the vase, with a line of old retouching along the extreme base edge. The old varnish is opaque to ultra violet light and it is possible that other retouching could exist in the dark background elsewhere but the still life itself appears to be in extraordinarily perfect condition, from the flowers down to the drops of dew on the ledge, the lizard and the ethereal grasshopper at mid left among the flowers. 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 unrecorded still life by Van der Ast, signed and dated 1625, is a characteristic work from the mid-1620s and displays many of the artist's topoi. The charming half-turned lizard finds its place in many of Van der Ast's flower still lifes, as does the porcelain vase and fly lower left. The lizard turning to the left – whose nails can be seen curling over the signature – and the butterfly recur in a signed and dated work, also from 1625, sold in these Rooms, 12 July 2001, lot 41. The same tulip which extends vertically at the upper centre of the design, with one petal falling to the right, is found in the artist's still life from the same year in the Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie, Schloss Georgium, Dessau, (inv. no. 425).

We are grateful to Fred G. Meijer of the RKD in The Hague for endorsing the attribution following first-hand inspection.