AELST, Willem van
(b. 1627, Delft, d. ca. 1683, Amsterdam)


Dutch still-life painter from Delft. He was a good draughtsman and vivid colourist. He specialized in still-lifes, as did his uncle and teacher Evert van Aelst of Delft (1602–57), whose name survives only in inventories and who died in poverty. Willem’s earliest known work, a Still-life with Fruit (1642; destroyed in World War II), is likely to have been influenced by his uncle’s style. On 9 November 1643 he enrolled in the Delft painters’ guild and from 1645 to 1649 was in France. From 1649 to 1656 he worked in Florence as court painter to Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. There he met his fellow countrymen Matthias Withoos and Otto Marseus van Schrieck, the latter also a still-life painter, who probably influenced van Aelst’s detailed and smooth style, and with whom van Aelst returned to the Netherlands in 1656 — first briefly to Delft before settling in Amsterdam in 1657. Van Aelst’s usual signature on paintings, Guill[er]mo van Aelst, recalls his stay in Italy, as does the (occasional) use of his bent-name ‘Vogelverschrikker’ (scarecrow), which appears, for example, on a Still-life with Poultry (1658; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

Aelst's still-lifes are distinguishable from those of other Dutch painters, being frequently littered with bric-á-brac of Renaissance antiquarianism.