PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF BERNARD PALITZ
The extremely large shells featured at the base of this composition are particularly impressive. Van der Ast was one of the first northern still life specialists to incorporate shells as a central focus of the composition, due in no small part to their desirability among the Dutch collecting community. Shells had gained enormous popularly as exotic collectibles that formed part of the seventeenth century kunstkammer, and, like tulips, they were the subject of great monetary speculation.
Van der Ast trained in Middelburg in the studio of his brother in law, Ambrosius Bosschaert, the Elder and, like his teacher, painted almost exclusively still lifes of flowers, fruit, and insects. As his career progressed, van der Ast moved out of Bosschaert's shadow by developing ever more elaborate and densely organized compositions. The dramatic light which imbues many of his compositions, the present example included, provide a strong sense of naturalism that was at the forefront of the still life genre.
We are grateful to Fred G. Meijer of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague, for confirming the attribution to van der Ast following first hand inspection of the original.
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