The Property of a Gentleman

Anna Ruysch

Still life of flowers, with peonies, carnations, variegated tulips and other assorted flowers arranged in a glass vase on a velvet draped stone ledge

Lot Closed

December 8, 02:43 PM GMT


50,000 - 70,000 GBP

Lot Details


The Property of a Gentleman

Anna Ruysch

The Hague 1666 - 1754

Still life of flowers, with peonies, carnations, variegated tulips and other assorted flowers arranged in a glass vase on a velvet draped stone ledge

bears signature on the ledge lower right: Rachel Ruysch

oil on copper, the reverse inscribed with inv. no.: A 316

unframed: 43.6 x 34.2 cm.; 17⅛ x 13½ in.

framed: 59.4 x 51 cm.; 23⅜ x 20⅛ in.

Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 27 June 1962, lot 35 (as Rachel Ruysch; sold as a pair), for £2,800 to Speelman;
With Edward Speelman, London;
From whom acquired by the father of the present owner;
Thence by descent.

Anna Ruysch was the sister of Rachel Ruysch, the great still life painter who achieved international fame during her long lifetime and who is now once again celebrated as one of the foremost exponents of the genre. Unlike Rachel, whose biography was based upon a first-hand interview by Jan van Gool, who met her two years before she died, little is known of Anna's life; she was two years younger than Rachel, must also have benefitted from studying and copying the specimens of plants, insects and butterflies that their botanist father, Fredericus Ruysch, collected, and she is recorded as marrying Isaak Hellenbroeck in 1688. Clues as to Anna's career as an artist, however, must be sought within the few signed paintings that are known, and a small group of works that have emerged and been reattributed to her over the last decade or so, to which this and the following lot are significant additions.

It is clear from Anna's work that she was strongly indebted not only to her sister's paintings - and the false signature on this picture testifies to the high quality and close similarity of Anna's still lifes to those of Rachel - but also to the style and technique of Rachel's teacher, Willem van Aelst (1627-83), with whom she trained from the age of fifteen. Indeed, the two paintings in this sale, particularly the Still life of fruit, would appear to add weight to the argument that Anna herself may also have been taught directly by Van Aelst. The ornate glass vase here is much closer to the expensive vessels that Van Aelst favoured, as opposed to the more simple goblets that tend to appear in Rachel's œuvre.

This bouquet tallies with other still lifes either signed by or attributed to Anna, which tend to differ from Rachel's works in their inclusion of multiple striped parrot tulips (Rachel's compositions generally feature just one example), often overblown so that the petals splay outwards; see, for example, the Still life recently acquired by the Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, Illinois.1 The painting may also be compared to the Still life of larger dimensions (92.5 x 71.5 cm.), sold in these Rooms, 30 October 1991, lot 145,2 which likewise contains large-headed flowers on long, notably curly stems, with much more smoothly-painted leaves than in Rachel's works. It would also seem that Anna formed her compositions with little overlap of the various blooms.

This work and its pendant are to date the only known paintings by Anna Ruysch executed on copper, and the only pair of paintings seemingly to have remained together until now. Rachel frequently produced pairs of still lifes, and the estate inventory of Anna and her husband records that she left both her daughters two flower paintings each (though they are not specifically described as companion pictures).

We are grateful to Dr Fred G. Meijer and Dr. Marianne Berardi for endorsing the attribution to Anna Ruysch on the basis of digital images, and for their help in the cataloguing of this lot.