ANTWERP SCHOOL, circa 1650s
A Bouquet of Narcissus, Tulip, Roses and other Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Stone Plinth
oil on copper
14 ¼ x 10 ½ inches (37.5 x 27.5 cm.)
Anonymous sale, Christie’s, London, April 19, 2000, lot 302 (as Follower of Nicolaes van Veerendael) sold for $82,063
Richard Green Gallery, London (as Simon Verelst)
European private collection
“Floral still lifes were especially popular in Antwerp.”  The beauty of this copper provides validation for this statement.
When Christie’s sold this painting in 2000, they were unable to come up with a firm attribution and catalogued it as a Follower of Nicolaes van Veerendael. Regardless, due to its outstanding quality, the painting sold for $82,063. The Richard Green Gallery of London is the next recorded owner, one of the most important old masters dealers worldwide. They believed it to be the work of Simon Verelst. Dr. Fred G. Meijer, the leading authority on Dutch and Flemish seventeenth century still lifes, does not concur with an attribution to Veerendael or Verelst. Instead, after recently viewing this work, he regards it as an excellent example of the Antwerp School thought to have been executed sometime in the 1650s.
The importance of the work having been painted in Antwerp, circa 1650s, is understandable only through the history of the city itself. By the sixteenth century Antwerp was the leading commercial and financial center of Europe, a power which it maintained through the middle of the seventeenth century. It further held a leading role in the art world. Paintings in Antwerp were regularly purchased by both the upper and middle classes, which ultimately led to wealthy individuals becoming “more than mere consumers. They developed into collectors and connoisseurs.” Collecting came to be closely associated with the aristocracy, even if one had a mercantile background. Thus, it was viewed as a “noble activity” and art collecting took on a symbolic dimension.  Naturally painters flocked to Antwerp to take advantage of the situation.  Vast collections came to be formed. Competition became fierce as only works of the highest quality at this level were sought. Further, in many cases the line between collector and art trader became blurred. “Leading figures in the Antwerp business world often spent time abroad. These people not only had cash and credit worthiness, they also had sufficient commercial feeling”. Via these individuals, the fame of the Antwerp School spread throughout Europe, as examples were acquired by its top collectors. 
Although all types of paintings were produced in Antwerp, it was the floral still lifes that “were especially prominent, prized for their highly refined execution and were addressed to a cultivated audience.”  Within the array of floral still lifes, it was the bouquet of flowers, one of the earliest types, which proved the most popular.  Quite often, as found in this painting, a tulip was given a prominent position in the composition. They were painted in an unending variety of colors, as well as positions—closed, half-closed, open, viewed from below or above. This stemmed from tulips being rare, yet extremely popular. For the majority of people, ownership of the actual flower was out of the question. Yet it could be easily attained with the purchase of a painting featuring a tulip, thus defying the odds of “time and place”. 
Jan “Velvet” Brueghel the Elder, after his return from Italy, introduced copper as a support to Antwerp artists. “The smoothness of the copper allowed the brush to glide on the surface without the interruption or absorption characteristic of wood or canvas surfaces. Close-up forms were painted with visible brush strokes of thick paint”, with even the minutest details distinguishable. “Meticulous attention to detail and ability to control the brush and create surfaces of exquisite refinement and sheen” became standard and transformed these works into luxury objects.
This painting of A Bouquet of Narcissus, Parrot Tulip, Roses and Other Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Stone Plinth, dating from around the 1650s, meets all the prerequisites for the most desirable works of the Antwerp School. What it lacks is a firm attribution, and it is for this reason alone the price on offer is now less than when sold at auction in 2000.
We would like to thank Dr. Fred G. Meijer for his identification and dating of this work as Antwerp School, circa 1650s.
 Walter Liedtke, “Essays, Still-Life Painters in Northern Europe 1600 – 1800”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art at www.metmuseum.org., 2003
 Bert Timmermans, “Networkers and Mediators in Seventeenth Century Antwerp Art World: the Impact of Collectors-Connoisseurs on Artistic Processes of Transmission and Selection” in Luxury in the Low Countries, Pharo Publishing, Brussels, 2010, pp. 111-112, 114.
 Elizabeth Alice Honing, Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp, Yale University Press, New Haven, New York, 1998, p. 13.
 Bert Timmermans, op.cit., pp. 114, 125.
 Walter Liedtke, op.cit.
 Karolien de Clippel & David van der Linden, “The Genesis of the Netherlandish Flower Piece, Jan Brueghel, Ambrosius Bosschaert and Middleburg” at Modemuseum, Hasselt, modemuseumhasselt.be.
 Marina Bianchi, “In the Name of the Tulip: Why Speculation” in Consumers and Luxury 1650 – 1850, Manchester University Press, 1999, p. 94.
 Polyxeni Potter, “Painting From Life, Nature’s Unpredictable Menagerie” on publmed.gov, December, 2005.