Osias Beert I and Workshop
c. 1580 – 1624
Tulips, Narcissi, an Iris and other Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Table Top with a Butterfly
Only in the last eighty or so years has Osias Beert the Elder come to prominence as one of the pioneers of still life flower painting in Flanders. Before this time, his reputation was as a master of the early Antwerp breakfast piece, and it was not until Curt Benedict’s investigative essay of 1938 that his flower pieces truly came to light (‘Un peintre oublié de natures mortes: Osias Beert’, L’Amour de l’Art, XIX, October 1938, pp. 307-313). Through careful examination of early Flemish bouquets, in glass or tigerware vessels, Benedict established the beginnings of an oeuvre that contained few signed, and no dated pictures, identifying works through the idiosyncrasies of Beert’s abundant bouquets, including those previously attributed to other artists.
In this beautiful picture, many of Beert’s distinctive motifs come to the fore: a dense composition of rather large blooms, painted in pinks and reds, fill the greater part of the picture plane, with lighter flowers providing strong accents such as the white daffodils; a symbol of resurrection in Christianity and known as Lent lilies because they typically bloom between Ash Wednesday and Easter. The artist’s bouquets are typically crowned by larger flowers, the blue irises here creating both a symmetrical composition and religious overtones again as a symbol of hope and faith. The balance of the lower half is tipped by a hanging rose to the left of the vase, too heavy for its sinuous stem. Through each stalk, petal and pistil Beert demonstrates the skilful subtlety for which he is best known, while painting with an explosive vitality so representative of early Flemish flower painting.
With Gallery Eugene Slatter, London, before 1953
With John Mitchell, London circa 1954 (as Osias Beert)
M.L. Hairs, Les Peintres Flamands de Fleurs Au XVIIe Siècle, Brussels, 1983, pp. 341, 457
P. Mitchell, European Flower Painters, London, 1973, p. 44, ill., no. 86 (as Osias Beert)