RACHEL RUYSCH | Still life of a thistle between carnations and cornflowers on a mossy forest floor, with butterflies and a cricket
Property from a European Private Collection
Property from a European Private Collection
The Hague 1664 - 1750 Amsterdam
Still life of a thistle between carnations and cornflowers on a mossy forest floor, with butterflies and a cricket
signed and dated lower right: Rachel Ruysch 1683
oil on canvas
64.5 x 51 cm.; 25⅜ x 20⅛ in.
The canvas is lined, and the paint surface is clean with a clear varnish. The network of craquelure has become slightly more distinct in small areas but there are no major damages visible to the naked eye. Inspection under ultraviolet light reveals an opaque varnish underneath which it is possible to discern some retouching: scattered along the right margin, with more notable areas along the upper half; a few small spots along the upper margin and lower left corner; a handful of tiny spots in the grasshopper and rocks lower centre; a fine, vertical line above the mushroom lower centre to reduce the appearance of craquelure; a small area around the butterfly's wings lower right; and a handful of fine lines around the butterfly and red carnation upper centre. These are all sensitively executed and the painting appears in overall good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
With R. Peltzer, Cologne;
His posthumous sale, Amsterdam, Frederik Muller & Cie., 26 May 1914, lot 167, for 440 Florins to
Mrs Johanna Maria Tydeman-Verloren van Themaat, Ginneken, Breda;
By family descent to P.H.A. Tydeman, Tiel, Amersfoort;
By whom anonymously sold, Amsterdam, Christie’s, 14 November 1991, lot 122;
With Rafael Valls, London, 1992, from whom acquired by the husband of the present owner.
C. Hofstede de Groot, A catalogue raisonné..., vol. X, London 1928, p. 319, cat. no. 54;
W. Stechow, in U. Thieme and F. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon des bildenden Künstler, vol. XXIX, Leipzig 1935, p. 244;
Stedelijk van Abbe Museum, Noord-Brabantsch kunstbezit: tentoonstelling t.g.v. het 40-jarig regeerings-jubileum van Hare Majesteit Wilhelmina, Koningin der Nederlanden, exh. cat., Eindhoven 1938, p. 26, cat. no. 44 (erroneously catalogued as a bouquet of flowers in a vase);
J.E.A.M. van de Mortel-Houben et al., Oude kunst in Brabants bezit, exh. cat., Tilburg 1948, p. 20, cat. no. 57;
Colonel M.H. Grant, Rachel Ruysch 1664–1750, Leigh-on-Sea 1956, p. 36, cat. no. 120;
M. Berardi, Science into art: Rachel Ruysch's early development as a still-life painter, doctoral diss., University of Pittsburgh 1998, pp. 284, 293–94, 298, 303–04, 318 (n. 558), 344 (n. 592), 352, 385 and 393, reproduced p. 457, fig. no. 38.
Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum, Noord-Brabantsch kunstbezit: tentoonstelling t.g.v. het 40-jarig regeerings-jubileum van Hare Majesteit Wilhelmina, Koningin der Nederlanden, 15 August – 15 September 1938, no. 44;
Tilburg, Paleis-Raadhuis, Oude kunst in Brabants bezit, 31 July – 19 Spetember 1948, no. 57 (lent by J.M. Tydeman-Verloren van Themaat).
Painted when Ruysch was only nineteen years old, this exceptional still life of a mossy forest floor was likely inspired by the work of her father, Frederik Ruysch, who was an eminent professor of anatomy and botany. The bright opium poppy that commands the viewer’s attention towards the centre of the canvas is surrounded by an abundance of plants and insects, including carnations, cornflowers, a grasshopper, a dragon-fly, and numerous types of butterfly.
Ruysch's earliest dated work predates the present canvas by only two years. Her focus on woodland elements, as opposed to floral bouquets, is typical of her early works dated to the 1680s. This painting demonstrates her already prodigious talent and flare for composition and colouring, as well as the extraordinary accuracy and naturalism of her technique and execution. The influence of her master Willem van Aelst (to whom she was apprenticed at the age of sixteen) is visible in the fine finish of the painted surface, in addition to the inclusion of the turned-away poppy: a signature feature of Van Aelst’s work.1 The variety of plants and the dramatic setting against the darkness of the woodland speaks to the influence of the leading innovator of the Dutch forest floor still life, Otto Marseus van Schrieck. Ruysch pays particular tribute to Van Schrieck through her decision to sign this painting on top of the mossy bank, just as he had done so often.2 A larger canvas of the same subject is in the Glasgow Art Gallery.3 This work, which is likely to date to the same period, is similar in composition and shares certain motifs, such as the upturned carnation and the reverse of the poppy head.
Ruysch’s career spanned over sixty years and she achieved international acclaim within her own lifetime. She is today considered to be one of the greatest exponents of still life from the Golden Age of either sex, and one of the most gifted female painters in art history.
1 See Berardi 1998, p. 304.
2 See Berardi 1998, p. 298.
3 93.7 x 71.7 cm.; inv. no. 45; see Grant 1956, p. 27, cat. no. 22.