Lot 47
  • 47

MICHAELINA WAUTIER | A garland of flowers, suspended between two animal skulls, a dragonfly above

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Michaelina Wautier
  • A garland of flowers, suspended between two animal skulls, a dragonfly above
  • signed and dated upper left: Michaelina Wautier / fecit. 1652
  • oil on oak panel
  • 41.1 x 57.4 cm


Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 8 July 1964, lot 63, for £120 to Douwes;
With Kunsthandel Gebr. Douwes, Amsterdam, 1964;
F.C. Butôt, Sankt Gilgen, Austria, by 1972;
His deceased sale, Amsterdam, Sotheby's, 16 November 1993, lot 38, when acquired for the present collection. 


Salzburg, Museumpavillon im Mirabellgarten, 12 July – 12 September 1972; Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum, 26 September 1972 – 14 January 1973, Niederländische Kunst aus dem Goldenen Jahrhundert, unnumbered;
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Hollandse en Vlaamse Kunst uit de 17e eeuw, 16 February – 1 April 1973, unnumbered;
Rotterdam, Kunsthal, At home in the Golden Age: minor masterpieces from the collection SØR Rusche, 9 February - 18 May 2008, no. 1;
Antwerp, Museum aan de Stroom, Michaelina. Baroque's Leading Lady, 1 June - 2 September 2018, no. 22. 


W. Bernt, The Netherlandish Painters of the Seventeenth Century, Munich 1970, vol. III, cat. no. 1374, reproduced;
Niederländisches Kunst aus dem Goldenen Jahrhundert--Gemälde und Zeichnungen im Umkreis grosser Meister aus der Sammlung F.C. Butôt, exhibition catalogue, Salzburg 1972, p. 170;
Hollandse en Vlaamse kunst uit de 17e eeuw: hoogtepunten van minder bekende meesters: schilderijen en tekeningen uit de verzameling F.C. Butôt, exhibition catalogue, Rotterdam 1973, pp. 172-3, reproduced;
L.J. Bol, G. Keyes and F.C. Butôt, Netherlandish paintings and drawings from the collection of F.C. Butôt by little-known and rare masters of the seventeenth century, London 1981, pp. 12, 52-3, cat. no. 9, reproduced;
A. van der Willigen and F. Meijer, A dictionary of Dutch and Flemish still-life painters working in oils: 1525 -1725, Leiden 2003, p. 215;
H.-J. Raupp (ed.), Stillleben und Tierstücke. Niederländische Malerei des 17. Jahrhundert der SØR Rusche Sammlung, exhibition catalogue, Münster 2004, pp. 278-81, cat. no. 64, reproduced;
M.J. Bok (ed.), At Home in the Golden Age: Masterpieces from the SØR Rusche Collection, exhibition catalogue, Zwolle 2008, pp. 30, 34, cat. no. 1;
K. van der Stighelen (ed.), Michaelina Wautier 1604-1689. Glorifying a Forgotten Talent, exhibition catalogue, Antwerp 2018, pp. 254-7, cat. no. 22, reproduced.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: This painting is on a fine bevelled oak panel with a single joint. The left end of the joint appears to have moved slightly more than the smooth, even surface evident across the centre and on the right. There has been some corrective work behind this left end of the joint, reglueing and inserting a little narrow supportive vertical bar a few inches long behind. This seems to have been done comparatively recently, perhaps at the same time as the restoration, maybe towards the middle of the last century, to judge by slightly darkened retouching visible towards this left end of the joint. The magnificent condition elsewhere throughout appears scarcely touched. The upper background is faintly thin occasionally with rare minimal touches visible under ultra violet light, but these are negligeable imperfections in the exceptionally beautiful preservation of the vivid brushwork in every detail of the garland. 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

Wautier was not only a skilled portraitist, as the previous lot demonstrates, but she also excelled in other genres, including still life. The present lot is one of only two still lifes known by her hand, but the detailed and diverse arrangement of blooms suggests that she must have painted other floral still lifes which can no longer be traced. Drawing inspiration from her Flemish contemporaries as well as from ancient Roman iconography, Wautier probably painted this rare composition at the request of a specific patron. Wautier certainly knew the work of Daniel Seghers (1590 – 1661), who specialized in the compositional format of a floral garland adorning a trompe-l’oeil image or statue, as if placed on an altar. However, while Seghers preferred roses and tulips for his bouquets, Wautier included many more diverse species: this garland includes carnations, marigold, cornflower, African marigold, daisy, foxglove, sweet pea, and hibiscus. This diversity suggests that she looked to Seghers’ teacher Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 – 1625), who also favored exotic combinations of blooms.

The two animal skulls that support the swag of flowers contribute to the memento mori theme common to still lifes: although the flowers bloom and insects gather to enjoy them, all things in nature must eventually die. At the same time, Wautier suggests with her precise rendering of the petals and leaves and the lifelike activity of the insects that as an artist she can defy nature by both bringing beautiful things to life and preserving them in their thriving state forever. Like many floral still lifes, Wautier’s includes flowers that bloom in different seasons, meaning that this exact bouquet could never exist as such in reality.

The now-untraced pendant to the present lot shares a very similar composition, almost identical dimensions, and is also signed and dated 1652. The similarity of the two paintings and their trompe-l’oeil decorative quality suggests that a patron or patrons commissioned the pair, or perhaps a series, from Wautier in order to hang them somewhere specific. The animal skulls also recall the Bucranium, the ancient Roman decorative motif of oxen skulls found on temple friezes in reference to actual sacrificial animals. Combined with the dragonfly, which symbolizes the end of life, and the butterfly, which connotes Christ’s resurrection, the imagined flowers and skulls may have communicated a message of redemptive sacrifice for a particular viewer.

Whatever its intended function, the sophisticated iconography and elegant naturalism of this still life prove that Wautier was equally skilled in several genres. As the only traceable still life securely attributed to this pioneering female artist, the present lot occupies an important place in early modern art history.