A new genre
Shortly after 1600, Roelant Savery was among the first Dutch artists who painted independent floral still lives. Until then, bouquets at most appeared as part of a larger whole, such as a bunch of lilies at Mary’s feet.
A precursor in the genre of the floral still-life was the German painter Ludger tom Ring. He was a sole pioneer, who was 40 years ahead of his time. His Narcissi, Periwinkle and Violets in a Ewer from 1562 has been part of the Mauritshuis collection since 2015. Six other of his painted floral still-lifes are known about, all in collections abroad.
The development of the floral still-life
After 1600, flowers became increasingly popular as an independent subject. In Antwerp, Jan Brueghel the Elder played a major part in the development of the genre.
In the Northern Netherlands, Roelant Savery was one of the precursors of the floral still-life. He painted the earliest known independent Dutch floral still-life. It dates from 1603 and is currently in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. Shortly afterwards, the Hague artist Jacob de Gheyn the Younger and Middelburg painter Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder also painted their first floral still-lifes.
Flower piece with two lizards, Centraal Museum
3. Floral still-lifes in the Mauritshuis
The Mauritshuis provides a good view of the development of floral still-lifes. The museum mainly offers floral still-lifes from the 16th century (Ludger tom Ring) up to and including the 18th century (Jan van Huysum), with well-known names such as Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan Davidsz de Heem, but also with top pieces from lesser known masters like Dirck de Bray and Rachel Ruysch.
Of the three Dutch pioneers of the independent floral still-life - Roelant Savery, Ambrosius Bosschaert and Jacob de Gheyn – two were already represented in the Mauritshuis. The new acquisition by Roelant Savery completes the “bouquet”.
Savery in het Mauritshuis
Savery is not unknown in the Mauritshuis, the collection already included two other pieces by Roelant Savery. Orpheus Charming the Animals with his Music (1627) was once purchased by Frederik Hendrik and Amalia van Solms. The painting can be admired in the Prince William V Gallery. Peasants Dancing outside a Bohemian Inn (c. 1610) was given to the Friends of the Mauritshuis Foundation by baron van Dedem and will be on display in the museum this September.
The Mauritshuis also has a piece by Roelant’s brother Jacob Savery in its collection. Fair on St Sebastian's Day (c. 1598) was recently voted as the visitor’s choice of the exhibition In and Out of Storage.