Oil on canvas, 52 x 42 cm (20½ x 16½ inches)
Signed and dated on the stone ledge: N. V. Veerendael/ 1672
A glass vase containing an arrangement of flowers stands on a weathered stone ledge, over which is draped a gold-fringed cloth. A compact cluster of roses, a hibiscus, a poppy and some anemones, form the centre of the bouquet, from which radiate a profusion of stems, flowers and foliage, including a tulip, a carnation, larkspur, a French marigold, a wallflower, jasmine and some thistles. A twining stem of blue convolvulus hangs down on the left, counter-balanced by a branch of ripe and semi-ripe blackberries on the right. Tiny ants, flies, a bee, and an Orange-tip butterfly crawl among the petals, while a cockchafer and a snail appear on the ledge below. Under bright illumination the foremost flowers emerge boldly from the dark background, while those further back recede in shadow, thereby endowing the arrangement with a tangible sense of depth. Droplets of water sparkle and a reflection of the studio window is captured in the curved surface of the bowl.
Nicolaes van Veerendael was born in Antwerp and worked there until his death. He was highly regarded in his lifetime, and collaborated with other leading masters, such as David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690), Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-1684) and Christiaan Luycks (1623-c.1677). Despite his early success, he fell upon hard times towards the end of his life, perhaps in part because he was apparently a slow worker. According to his eighteenth-century biographer Jacob Campo Weyerman, it sometimes took him four days to complete a single flower1.
Veerendael specialised in flower painting. He was one of the last of the Flemish masters to work in the tradition of floral painting that began in the first decade of the seventeenth century with the flower pieces of Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), Rolant Savery (1578-1639) and Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621), and continued into the middle of the century with Brueghel’s pupil Daniel Seghers (1590-1661), and others. Fortunately for later art historians, Veerendael regularly dated his works, making the task of tracking his development relatively easy. Early in his career, in the 1660s, he painted vases of flowers with a strong vertical axis and floral garlands that closely follow those of Seghers, but in the 1670s, under the influence of Jan Davidsz. de Heem, his floral bouquets became richer, less rigidly arranged and more varied in their choice of flowers.
This beautifully signed and dated painting of 1672 is a fine example of Veerendael’s work from his mid career. By this date, he had absorbed the influences of Seghers and de Heem into a style of his own. Here, the rich diversity of blooms and the globular glass bowl recall the floral arrangements of de Heem, but Veerendael’s exquisitely refined brushwork and the subtle play of light achieves a certain softness and graceful informality that distinguishes him from the older master. Also distinctive is the palette of soft pinks, red, orange and blue, augmented by splashes of deep vermilion, brilliant blue and white. Another feature likewise characteristic of the painter is his choice of species. We often find certain combinations of flowers recurring in Veerendael’s paintings of a similar date.
The assortment of flowers seen here, for example, including a red and white striped tulip, a carnation, roses, a white hibiscus, a marigold, honeysuckle and a vibrant blue Morning Glory, is repeated in several paintings dating from the early to mid-1670s, including still lifes in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, in Antwerp (Fig.1), the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille, Marseille (Fig.2), and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Fig.3). However, unlike many flower painters of his time, Veerendael rarely used the identical flower study in more than one painting.
We cannot be sure that Veerendael intended paintings such as this one to convey any specific message. However, in the seventeenth century, flowers, by their very nature, exemplified ideas of transience and the brevity of life. Here, the inclusion of flowers at different stages of development - ranging from tightly closed buds to flowers in full bloom, and those, like the rose in the upper left side of the bouquet, which has completely dropped its petals - could very well have brought to the minds of contemporary viewers notions of vanitas. Similarly, the presence of insects on or close to the flowers would have reinforced the symbolism of fleeting time. Above all, this still life was painted primarily to amaze and delight its audience and display the virtuoso talents of its author.
The son of the painter Willem van Veerendael, Nicolaes van Veerendael was baptised on 19 February 1640 in the St. Andrieskerk in Antwerp. He was trained by his father and joined the Guild of St. Luke in 1656/57. On 20 March 1669, he married Catharina van Beveren, daughter of the sculptor Matthijs van Beveren, in the cathedral of Notre Dame. The couple had ten children, however, all but two of them died prematurely. Veerendael was not a wealthy man: in a document of March 1691 he acknowledged owing 140 guilders in rent on his house on the Jodenstraat, and agreed to pay 18 guilders a year in order to prevent his household goods being repossessed. He drew up his last will and testament on 7 August 1691. Four days later, he was buried in the abbey church of St. Michael. On 24 March 1692 his widow gave birth to his posthumous child.
1 Jacob Campo Weyereman, De levens-beschryvingen der Nederlandsche konst-schilders en konst-schilderessen, 1729, vol. III, p. 234-5.
Galerie Hans Bammann, Düsseldorf
Buch- und Kunstkabinett Hans Trojanski, Düsseldorf
From whom acquired by the previous owner
Private collection, Germany, until 2018
Jacob Campo Weyereman, De levens-beschryvingen der Nederlandsche konst-schilders en konst-schilderessen, 1729, vol. III, p. 234-5
Fig.2. Nicolaes van Veerendael, Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase, 167(5)
Oil on canvas, 38 x 28 cm,
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille
Fig.3. Nicolaes van Veerendael, Flowers in a Vase, 1673
Oil on canvas, 34.2 x 26.6 cm,
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Fig.4. Nicolaes van Veerendael, Still life with a tulip, a rose, a carnation and other flowers in a glass vase, on a stone ledge, 1657-91
Oil on panel, 32 x 23,9 cm
At Sotheby's on 7 July 2016, London, lot 156