Rachel Ruysch

Vase with Flowers

151 voorzijde
151 detail signatuur
151 achterzijde
151 ingelijst
151 voorzijde
151 voorzijde

Rachel Ruysch
Vase with Flowers

1700 Not on view

This bouquet is past its best. The flowers are drooping and starting to fade. In the middle, a wilted opium poppy has been cut off. The empty space left there lends depth to the bouquet.

Rachel Ruysch specialised in this sort of profuse flower still-life. She inherited her love of flowers and plants from her father, the renowned Amsterdam botanist Frederik Ruysch. Rachel had an international career as a painter and worked until a ripe old age.

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More about Rachel Ruysch

Rachel Ruysch was one of the most successful Dutch still life painters of the 17th and 18th centuries. Her refined paintings with colourful, lifelike flowers were among the best of the kind at the time. Ruysch was a court painter for a German prince and the first woman to be a member of the artists’ society Pictura in The Hague. She was famous both at home and abroad.

Rachel Ruysch Vaas Met Bloemen Mh0151 Mauritshuis

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Women of the Mauritshuis

Rachel Ruysch (1664 - 1750) broke the glass ceiling. She grew up in a house full of jars containing preserved human remains. Her father was the famous anatomist and botanist Frederik Ruysch. He recognised Rachel’s talent and when she was 15 sent her to train with Willem van Aelst, a famous artist. This was very unusual for a girl at that time. If you were from a poor family, you had to work from a young age. If you were from a rich family, like Rachel Ruysch, you were in fact expected not to work, but to prepare yourself for marriage and motherhood. Why did Rachel Ruysch pay absolutely no attention to these conventions?

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rachel ruysch vaas met bloemen mauritshuis
151 voorzijde

Rachel Ruysch
Vase with Flowers

1700 Not on view

Upwards

This painting by Rachel Ruysch is one of the few flower pieces representing a bouquet clearly past its peak. The blue iris at the upper right hangs over, withered, the tulip at the left is about to lose its first petal, and an overblown flower has even been removed from the middle. This would appear to have been just done for the stem is still ‘bleeding’: the drops fall onto the large leaves, from which they slowly glide down. It was probably a large red opium poppy, notorious for its short life span.

A side effect of the conspicuous gap in the bouquet is that the flower piece has a distinctly strong sense of depth. The white roses and the calendula at the bottom are brightly illuminated, while above the light is suddenly much less intense so that the flowers in partial shade seem to recede. No matter how atypical the wilted state of the bouquet, with its ingenious composition and superb suggestion of light and texture, this painting is characteristic for Ruysch and demonstrates the high quality of her work.
Not surprisingly, Ruysch was a phenomenon in her time. The fact that as a woman she possessed such remarkable skills was cause for wonderment, all the more so because in addition to producing many dozens of paintings, Ruysch also bore ten children, each and every one of whom she had raised herself, as she noted with pride. Moreover, she continued working to a ripe old age and was still painting at 84, two years before her death. This only fuelled the admiration she aroused among her contemporaries.

Ruysch learned to paint from Willem van Aelst, who began training her when she was fifteen. In addition, she must also have been influenced by her father, the famous Amsterdam professor of anatomy and botany, Frederik Ruysch. He owned an extensive collection of curiosities, was an amateur painter, and as of 1685 headed the Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus as a professor in botany. With such a father it would have been difficult for Rachel Ruysch to have specialised in any other subject.

(this is a reworked version of a text published in: E. Runia, Flowers in the Mauritshuis, The Hague 2007, pp. 62-65)

Details

General information
Rachel Ruysch (The Hague 1664 - 1750 Amsterdam)
Vase with Flowers
1700
painting
151
Material and technical details
oil
canvas
79.5 x 60.2 cm
Inscriptions
lower left, on the edge of the table: Rachel Ruysch F: 1700

Provenance

(?) Given by the painter to the Confrerie Pictura, The Hague; H.D. Loeff Gallery, The Hague; purchased, 1826