MARSEUS VAN SCHRIECK, Otto
(b. 1619/20, Nijmegen, d. 1678, Amsterdam)
Dutch painter. It is difficult to categorize him: he made a few still-lifes, but he is best known for his mysterious dark close-ups of the live undergrowth of forest floors that give detailed views of wild flowers, weeds, thistles, and mushrooms animated by phosphorescent butterflies, insects, reptiles, and snakes. These works, strictly speaking not still-lifes, have always appealed to collectors of highly finished Dutch cabinet pictures. Naturalists have a field day identifying their flora and fauna, and so do iconographers who give detailed commentaries on their content, which are generally related to the transience theme.
Marseus van Schrieck travelled to Italy in 1648. In Rome he received the Bent name 'Sniffer' (Snuffelaer), because, according to Houbraken, he sniffed everywhere for strange creatures and plants. He returned to his homeland a few years later. After settling in Amsterdam, he acquired a parcel of land just outside the city where he kept animals and reptiles. No doubts some are portrayed in his paintings.