Lot 37
  • 37

BALTHASAR VAN DER AST | A still life of fruit on a pewter plate, a parakeet perched on a basket, a flower vase, shells and a lizard, on a ledge

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • A still life of fruit on a pewter plate, a parakeet perched on a basket, a flower vase, shells and a lizard, on a ledge
  • signed lower right, on the ledge: · B · vander · Ast ·  
  • oil on oak panel
  • 54.8cm. by 100.5cm.; 21½in. by 39½in.


With Eugene Slatter Gallery, London, 1946; De Mauduit collection, Paris, by 1963;

Sir Robert Bird, 2nd Baronet (1876–1650);

His sale, Paris, Musée Galliéra, 1 April 1965, lot 2;

Private collection, Switzerland;

Anonymous sale ('Monsieur G...'), Paris, Ader Picard Tajan, 14 April 1989, lot 215;

With Richard Green, London, by November 1989, when advertised in The Burlington Magazine, no. 1040, vol. CXXXI;

Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 9 July 1998, lot 40, for £300,000;

Where acquired by the present owner.


London, Eugene Slatter Gallery, Paintings of life and still-life by Dutch and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century, 22 May – 6 July 1946, no. 25, reproduced; Geneva, Musée d'art et d'histoire, 1963, no. 3;

London, Richard Green, Exhibition of Old Master and English Paintings, 1989, no. 5.


L.J. Bol, The Bosschaert Dynasty, Painters of flowers and fruit, Leigh-on-Sea 1960, p. 85, no. 115.


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. Still life of fruit on a pewter plate, a parakeet perched on a basket, a vase of flowers, shells and a lizard. Signed B vander Ast at lower right. This painting has a comparatively recent cradle, perhaps from the middle of the last century, with a wider central support behind. Clearly this is to protect the vulnerable central area where a slanting crack runs across and down from the left edge through the head of the parakeet and across to the pink rose on the right. Another briefer crack slants down just below and parallel from the left edge. The careful restoration probably dates back to the same period as the protective cradle behind. The cracks have narrow retouching, with a few other small retouches at the side edges and along the top edge. The dark glazing in the shadows of the upper background is as always naturally more vulnerable than elsewhere, with slight flickering in the light and shade. The darker grapes have also been slightly vulnerable, with faint wear in the darker weave of the basket. The magnificent condition overall however is most exceptional, with remarkably beautiful detail throughout, sumptuous fruit and delicate flowers almost perfectly unworn. 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

With this grand display of fruit, flowers and shells, Balthasar van der Ast has created a complex show piece of great elegance and refinement. Painted on an unusually large panel, the artist conveys a strong illusion of depth due in large measure to his emphatically horizontal composition and spacious design. This well-preserved painting has been dated between about 1635 and 1640 and is among the finest still lifes made by Van der Ast during his final period in Delft. A parrot perches on an upturned wicker basket; apples, walnuts and bunches of grapes spill out, heaped over other fruits arranged on a pewter dish. The reflective surface at the centre of the composition draws attention to the plate’s rim as it juts over the edge of a grey stone table. Exotic shells lie on either side (one overhangs precariously), while on the right a lizard comes to the very edge. Its serpentine shape echoes the curves of a dark coloured glass vase with a gilt foot that stands immediately behind. The arrangement of flowers mixes an iris with tulips, roses and columbine. Two insects – a bee and possibly a hover-fly – buzz against an unadorned backdrop that enhances the colours and silhouettes of feathers, flowers, fruit and leaves.

Grouped by L.J. Bol with eight other of Van der Ast’s most elaborate still lifes, of which only one is dated (1641), this painting is a complex display that includes unusual motifs, such as the upturned basket and the parrot in brilliant plumage. One notable example with a similar basket spilling out its contents onto a table is a still life at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, painted on a smaller panel than the present work sometime after 1632.1 Another, with the near-identical motif of the upturned basket and parrot, also on a smaller panel, was sold at auction in 2012 and is datable to the second half of the 1630s.2 Parrots appear in the artist’s work from the early 1620s; for example, Flowers and Fruits with a Parrot at the Museum Flehite, Amersfoort;3 and a more densely packed composition dated to the same decade at the Toledo Museum of Art.4 A characteristic element of the present painting is the inclusion of shells, which Van der Ast developed into his own specialism.

Born in Middelburg, Van der Ast entered one of the greatest dynasties of still-life painters when his sister married Ambrosius Bosschaert (1573–1621), founder of a highly successful tradition in the genre. He trained in his brother-in-law’s studio and like him painted mainly flowers and fruit, creating a body of work that consists of around two-hundred paintings varying considerably in size. Living in Utrecht by 1619, Van der Ast developed his own individual style. He later moved to Delft where in 1632 he joined the city’s Guild of St Luke and remained there for the rest of his career.

As Dr Fred G. Meijer points out, since the artist did not date any work after about 1628, the chronology of Van der Ast's later production is difficult, also because his style and handling were rather consistent. The earliest known still life by Van der Ast to combine flowers, fruit and shells in a single composition is a work at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, dated twice 1620 and 1621.5 In the 1630s the artist began to introduce into his compositions flying insects such as those seen here. Dr Sam Segal, who studied this painting in 1989, concluded that it can be dated to around 1640, during Van der Ast’s final period in Delft.6 In Dr Meijer's view, a date from the mid-1630s is also possible. We are grateful to him for his observations.


1 AFI.3.2002; oil on oak panel, 43.5 x 74.3 cm. London, Sotheby’s, 6 July 2000, lot 57.

2 49.8 x 76.3 cm.; sold London, Christie's, 4 December 2012, lot 16.

3 0001-129; oil on panel, 89 x 122 cm.

4 1951.381; oil on panel, 55.2 x 89.2 cm.

5 SK-A-2152; oil on panel, 39.2 x 69.8 cm.; Bol 1960, no. 96, reproduced.

6 A copy of a certificate by Dr Sam Segal dated 9 August 1989, Amsterdam, is available on request.