Willem van Aelst Flower Still Life with a Timepiece
On view in Room 16
Van Aelst’s flower still-lifes are different to those of his predecessors. Rather than painting symmetrical bouquets, he arranged them along a diagonal line. Moreover, he did not light them evenly, opting instead for strong contrasts of light and dark. This lends tension and dynamism to his bouquets.
This profuse flower painting was intended as a showpiece. The flowers stand in a costly silver vase, and a gold watch lies beside them. Van Aelst, who had lived in Italy, signed the work with his Italian name.
Willem van Aelst (Delft 1627 - after 1683 Amsterdam)
Flower Still Life with a Timepiece
On view in
Material and technical details
62.5 x 49 cm
Signed and dated
lower left: Guill.mo van Aelst. 1663.
The Het Loo Palace, Apeldoorn, 1757; Prince William V, The Hague, until 1795; confiscated by the French, transferred to the Muséum Central des Arts/Musée Napoléon (Musée du Louvre), Paris, 1795-1815; Royal Picture Gallery, housed in the Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, 1816; transferred to the Mauritshuis, 1822
Bluebottle and butterfly
The bluebottle is silhouetted against the white flower of the snowball tree. Flies symbolise the brevity of life. The downy cabbage white, with its transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, refers to rebirth.