A Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase
Osias Beert, the Elder
On panel, 25⅝ x 19¾ ins. (65 x 50 cm)
With Robert Noortman, 1976-77
Sale, Dorotheum, Vienna, 19 June 1979, lot 12 (reproduced)
With Charles Roelofz, Amsterdam, 2003
Private Collection, Germany, 2003-2014
E. Greindl, Les peintres flamands de nature morte au XVIIe siècle, 1983, p. 337, no. 82
M.-L. Hairs, The Flemish Flower Painters in the XVIIth Century, 1985, pp. 340-341 & 457
An opulent bouquet of flowers is arranged in a speckled stoneware vase. The bouquet is composed of spring and early summer flowers: various types of multi-coloured tulips dominate the upper tier, while lower down, on shorter stems, are a mass of narcissi, anemones, two heavy-headed roses, an iris, a Martagon lily, a snake's-head fritillary and a primula. Butterflies flutter among the fragrant blooms and white rose petals are strewn across the tabletop.
Osias Beert belonged to the first generation of Flemish still-life painters. Although he left a fairly sizeable oeuvre, very little is known about his life. A pupil of the obscure painter Andries van Baesrode, Beert became a master in Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1602. He specialised in breakfast still lifes and fruit and flower pieces. Some of his elegant displays of food on a table incorporate a small vase of flowers, but he also painted still lifes devoted solely to arrangements of flowers in baskets, or in various kinds of vases. The ceramic vase depicted here is of a type quite often used by the artist for his larger, more abundant bouquets of flowers. Beert rarely signed or monogrammed his paintings and never dated them. However, several of his works are painted on copper panels that bear the stamp of the panel-maker Pieter Stas and the dates 1607, 1608, or 1609. Owing to the absence of dated paintings it is difficult to establish a reliable chronology for his oeuvre.
The floral still life emerged as an independent genre in the first decade of the seventeenth century. It is not known precisely who was responsible for this innovation since several artists working in different artistic centres began painting flowers around the same time. The earliest surviving example of a flower piece is by Roelandt Savery (1578-1639) dating from 1603. A Flemish-born painter, who ultimately settled in Utrecht, Savery may have been living in Amsterdam when he painted his flower piece, or he may already have moved to Prague, where he entered the service of the Emperor Rudolf II in 1604. In his Schilder-Boeck of 1604, Karel van Mander reported that the Hague artist Jacques de Gheyn (1565-1629) had already sold ìa little pot of flowers from life...' to the Amsterdam collector Henrick van Os, and a second 'larger pot of flowers' to Rudolf II (i). Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), working in Antwerp, apparently executed his first vase of flowers in 1605, after a visit to the court in Prague, where he may have seen the still lifes of Savery and de Gheyn. Also originating from 1605, is the first flower painting by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621), who spent much of his life in Middelburg.
It seems likely that Beert's flower paintings were inspired by the lavish floral still lifes of his Antwerp contemporary Jan Brueghel the Elder. Like Brueghel, his bouquet appears in a weighty-looking vase, with the flowers organised more or less symmetrically around a central axis, the larger blooms at the top and the smaller ones filling in below. However, when it comes to his treatment of the flowers themselves, Beert's are far more stylised than those of Brueghel, suggesting that he may have relied heavily upon printed sources. Characteristic features of Beert's flower pieces seen here are the dense arrangement of flowers filling the greater part of the panel, the sinuous stems of the roses and the impasto outlines in white or other pale colours delineating the individual specimens. Also typical of Beert are the deeply shadowed leaves towards the back of the arrangement that give the bouquet a sense of volume and depth and the white rose petals scattered round the foot of the vase.
Osias Beert was probably born in Antwerp around 1580. In 1596, he
became a pupil of Andries van Baesrode I and was accepted as a master in
the Antwerp guild of St. Luke in 1602. On 8 January 1606, he married
Margarita Ykens (d. 1646/7): the couple had one child, Elias
(1622-1678), who became a master in the St. Lukeís Guild in 1644/45
under the name Osias Beert II. In addition to being a still-life
painter, Beert was active as a cork merchant. He was also a member of
the Rhetoricianís chamber, De Olijftak (the Olive Branch) from 1615
until his death in December 1623. He trained five apprentices between
1605 and 1617, among them his wifeís nephew, the still-life painter
Frans Ykens (1601-1693).
i Karel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boeck..., Haarlem, 1604, fols. 293vo.,-294.
Osias Beert, the Elder
Antwerp? c. 1580 - Antwerp 1623
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