BOSSCHAERT, Ambrosius the Elder
(b. 1573, Antwerpen, d. 1621, Den Haag)
Bouquet in an Arched Windowc. 1618
Oil on panel, 64 x 46 cm
Mauritshuis, The Hague
One of the oldest types of still-life is the flower piece. It seems that flower painting was established as an independent category in the Netherlands during the third quarter of the sixteenth century, with the rise of a widespread interest in gardening and the cultivation of exotic flowers. The principal member of the group of flower painters during the first decades of the seventeenth century was Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, the founder of a dynasty of flower and fruit painters.
His prime work is the brilliantly coloured Bouquet in an Arched Window. Jacob de Gheyn II and Roelandt Savery painted similar multi-coloured bouquets in niches, but only Bosschaert showed flowers against an open vista. The painting's exquisite attention to detail recalls works by miniaturists. Of Baroque chiaroscuro there is not a trace. Each bloom in his typically axial symmetrical arrangement is given equal attention and is minutely analysed in an even light.
Analysis of the flower pieces made by Bosschaert and other flower painters of his time reveals that their bouquets were seldom painted from life. They were assembled from a number of independent studies which serve as patterns. The pictures frequently show blossoms which bloom at different seasons of the year, and it is not unusual to find the same flower, shell, or insect in more than one picture. This manner of composing flower pieces was continued by later artists. Moreover, the huge bouquets are usually far too large for the roemers or vases that hold them. If set up in the studio they would surely topple over.