Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder

Roses, tulips, anemone, cyclamen and other flowers in a porcelain vase with a red admiral butterfly.,


Roses, tulips, anemone, cyclamen and other flowers in a porcelain vase with a red admiral butterfly.,

oil on panel.
Painted around 1609

One morning in 1637 Amsterdam awoke to the news of the tulip market crash. Feverish speculation had pushed the price of tulips into financial legend. At its peak a single Semper Augustus bulb (as seen in our painting) had sold for five and a half thousand guilders, the cost of an opulent townhouse or three and a half Night Watch paintings by Rembrandt! That a tulip could be the same price as nearly one million litres of Bordeaux wine tells us enough about the Dutch love affair with flowers. Albeit short-lived, ‘Tulipmania’ was a remarkable event not only in Dutch history but throughout the world. Although we are hardly lacking in financial follies today the episode is, nonetheless, fascinating. The early flower painters had surely played their part in the glorification of tulips and Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder was the personification, as it were, of the early flower painting.
Bosschaert only painted approximately fifty-five known works and there were two notable periods of inactivity between 1611 and 1613 and 1615 to 1616 when it appears he was dealing in Dutch and other European paintings. The lack of more paintings from a twenty-eight year career has often puzzled art historians since, significantly, he produced twelve pictures in the last three years of his life when he lived in Breda. A new Bosschaert flower-piece is therefore a rare occurrence.
Re-discovered in 2002 this beautiful painting on a mahogany panel has been dated by Dr. Fred G. Meijer to around 1609 which places it amongst his early known works.