OSIAS BEERT THE ELDER (Antwerp (?) c. 1580 – Antwerp 1623)
A Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase
oil on panel
25 5/8 x 19 ¾ inches (65 x 50 cm.)
Bohman Collection, Swaneholms Castle, Sweden, before 1976
Robert Noortman Gallery, London, 1976 – 1977
Anonymous sale, Dorotheum, Vienna, June 19, 1979, lot 12 (sold with a photo-certificate from Dr. Ingvar Bergström stating “an important work by Osias Beert the Elder (ca. 1580 – 1624 and in excellent state of preservation. It may in likelihood be dated in the period 1615 – 21, London, November 1976”.)
Charles Roelofsz, Amsterdam, 2003
Private Collection, Germany, 2003 – 2014
Johnny van Haeften LTD., London
London, Robert Noortman Gallery, “Osias Beert the Elder” in A Selection of Important Paintings by Old and Modern Masters from our 1977 Collection, 1977, no. 2, illustrated
The Connoisseur, volume 193, issues 775-776, 1976, advertisement for the Robert Noortman Gallery
Die Weltkunst, volume 47, no. 3, 1977, advertisement for the Robert Noortman Gallery
Die Weltkunst, volume 49, 1979, announcement for Dorotheum sale, p. 1315
Edith Greindl, Les Peintres Flamands de Nature Morte au XVIIe Siècle, Michel Lefebvre, Sterrebeek, 1983, p. 337, no. 82 (as Osias Beert the Elder)
Marie-Louise Hairs, Les Peintres Flamands de Nature Morte au XVIIe Siècle, volume 1, pp. 340-341, volume 2, p. 4 (as Osias Beert the Elder)
An opulent bouquet of flowers is arranged in a speckled stoneware vase. The bouquet is composed of spring and early summer flowers: various types of multi-colored tulips dominate the upper tier, while lower down, on shorter stems, are a mass of narcissi, anemones, two heavy-headed roses, an iris, a Martagon lily, a snake’s-head fritillary and a primula. Butterflies flutter among the fragrant blooms and white rose petals are strewn across the tabletop.
Osias Beert belonged to the first generation of Flemish still-life painters. Although he left a fairly sizable oeuvre, very little is known about his life. A pupil of the obscure painter Andries van Baesrode, Beert became a master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1602. He specialized in breakfast still lifes and fruit and flower pieces. Some of his elegant displays of food on a table incorporate a small vase of flowers, but he also painted still lifes devoted solely to arrangements of flowers in baskets, or in various kinds of vases. The ceramic vase depicted here is of a type quite often used by the artist for the larger, more abundant bouquets of flowers. Beert rarely signed or monogrammed his paintings and never dated them. In 1976 Dr. Ingvar Bergström declared this painting to be in an excellent state of preservation, with a probable date of execution between 1615 – 1621. Dr. Sam Segal, for the Segal Still Life Project (no. 0000191362) at the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in The Hague, dated it between 1610 – 1619. It was also recently viewed by Dr. Fred G. Meijer, now the leading expert on Dutch and Flemish seventeenth century still lifes, who reconfirmed the painting as by Osias Beert the Elder.
The floral still life emerged as an independent genre in the first decade of the seventeenth century. It is not known precisely who was responsible for this innovation since several artists working in different artistic centers began painting flowers around the same time. The earliest surviving example of a flower piece is by Roelandt Savery (1578 – 1639) dating from 1603. A Flemish-born painter, who ultimately settled in Utrecht, Savery may have been living in Amsterdam where he painted his flower piece, or he may have already moved to Prague, where he entered the service of the Emperor Rudolf II in 1604. In his Schilder-Boeck of 1604, Karel van Mander reported that the Hague artist Jacques de Gheyn (1565 – 1629) had already sold “a little pot of flowers from life…” to the Amsterdam collector Henrick van Os, and a second “large pot of flowers” to Rudolf II.  Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 – 1625), working in Antwerp, apparently executed his first vase of flowers in 1605, after a visit to the court in Prague, where he may have seen the still lifes of Savery and de Gheyn. Also originating from 1605 is the first flower painting by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573 – 1621), who spent much of his life in Middelburg.
It seems likely that Beert’s flower paintings were inspired by the lavish floral still lifes of his Antwerp contemporary Jan Brueghel the Elder. Like Brueghel, his bouquet appears in a weighty-looking vase, with the flowers organized more or less symmetrically around a central axis, the larger blooms at the top and the smaller ones filling in below. Characteristic features of Beert’s flower pieces seen here are the dense arrangement of flowers filling the greater part of the panel, the sinuous stems of the roses and the impasto outlines in white or other pale colors delineating the individual specimens. Also typical of Beert are the deeply shadowed leaves towards the back of the arrangement that give the bouquet a sense of volume and depth and the white rose petals scattered around the foot of the vase.
Osias Beert was probably born in Antwerp around 1580. In 1596, he became a pupil of Andries van Baesrode I and was accepted as a master in the Antwerp guild of St. Luke in 1602. On January 8, 1606, he married Margarita Ykens (d. 1646/7): the couple had one child, Elias (1622 – 1678), who became a master in the St. Luke’s Guild in 1644/45 under the name of Osias Beert II. In addition to being a still-life painter, Beert was active as a cork merchant. He was also a member of the Rhetorician’s chamber, De Olijftak (the Olive Branch) from 1615 until his death in December 1623. He trained five apprentices between 1605 and 1617, among them his wife’s nephew, the still-life painter Frans Ykens (1601 – 1693).
 Karel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boeck…, Haarlem, 1604, fols. 293vo.,-294.