Balthasar van der Ast, Flowers in a Vase with Shells and Insects
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About the Artist
The Still Life painting genre flourished in the Netherlands during the early 1600’s, continuing into the 1700’s with a gradual evolution of style and subject. The early period included elements that were rooted in Catholicism and symbolic of the Virgin Mary or other religious figures and also images that had some moral symbolism relevant for the times in which they were created. The rise of this genre is rooted in the urbanization of Dutch and Flemish society, which ushered in a focus on the home and personal possessions, commerce and trade. Artists Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Balthasar van der Ast and others often illustrated this emerging worldliness by combining flowers from different countries and sometimes continents in one vase. Vanitas still lifes, those that illustrated the futility of pleasure and the transience of life through flora and fruit which would inevitably rot and disappear, were popular among artists like Jan Davidsz de Heem and others of this period. Later floral still life works by artists such as Rachel Ruysch and Jan van Huysum placed an emphasis on aesthetic appeal with colorful and dynamic compositions.