Old Masters Day Sale, including portrait miniatures

Old Masters Day Sale, including portrait miniatures

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 440. Still life of fruit, with peaches and grapes arranged on a velvet draped stone ledge, with butterflies.

The Property of a Gentleman

Anna Ruysch

Still life of fruit, with peaches and grapes arranged on a velvet draped stone ledge, with butterflies

Lot Closed

December 8, 02:46 PM GMT


30,000 - 50,000 GBP

Lot Details


The Property of a Gentleman

Anna Ruysch

The Hague 1666 - 1754

Still life of fruit, with peaches and grapes arranged on a velvet draped stone ledge, with butterflies

oil on copper, the reverse inscribed with inv. no.: A 315

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 in 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 previous lot are significant additions.

It is clear from Anna's work that she was indebted not only to her sister's paintings - and this picture is one of a number once given to 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, and this work in particular, would appear to add weight to the argument that Anna herself may also have been taught directly by Van Aelst. Not only are the subject and composition of this painting strongly reminiscent of some of Van Aelst's still lifes, but the inclusion of the rather flashy, shiny gold fringe of the drape on the marble ledge is also much more typical of Van Aelst's paintings than Rachel's.

The palette of this work matches that of the previous lot, the Still life of flowers, and both paintings are handled in a rather slicker way than the execution found in Rachel's œuvre. This picture may be compared to another Still life of fruit with butterflies, which contains a similar fringed cloth, sold at London, Christie's, 7 December 2007, lot 145,1 though it is presumably of an earlier date. One of Anna's rare signed works, sold at Sotheby's, New York, 15 January 1993, lot 90, also depicts peaches and grapes on a draped ledge.2 In its finesse and meticulous attention to detail, however, the quality of this painting would appear to be of a much higher degree.

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.

1 https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/images/193310

2 https://rkd.nl/explore/images/193471