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Floral Still Life with Shells

Balthasar van der Ast, Netherlandish, 1593/4–1657
Oil on copper
Made in
Netherlands, Europe
Current Location
On View, Gallery 238
13 3/16 x 8 3/4 in. (33.5 x 22.2 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
Flowers that bloom for a very short time and exotic shells arouse the sensual pleasures of sight, smell, and touch. Fifteen separate blossoms represent twelve different species in this still life. Balthasar van der Ast is credited with inventing the type of flower painting that included shells, and this early example is so exact that specialists can identify specific varieties. These blossoms, however, do not flower at the same time, reminding us that this seemingly realistic depiction is actually a lovely contrivance only possible in the painter’s fantasy realm.
Theodore W. H. Ward (1879-1957), England [1]

by 1931 -
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, England [2]

Private Collection, The Netherlands [3]

by 1934 - 1955
D. A. Hoogendijk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands [4]

1955 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from D. A. Hoogendijk [5]

[1] A letter from Fred G. Meijer, Curator of the Department of Old Netherlandish Painting at the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, mentions a photograph of this painting in the Witt Library, London. According to the mount on this photograph, the painting did belong to Theodore Ward. However, the painting was probably in Ward's collection before 1931 since an additional note on the mount refers to a 1931 still-life exhibition in which this painting was lent by the London art dealers, Arthur Tooth & Sons. Meijer's letter also notes that the Wards did not keep records of their acquisitions so he could not locate an earlier provenance for the piece [letter dated May 13, 2002; SLAM document files].

[2] See note [1].

[3] Per invoice from D. A. Hoogendijk dated March 30, 1955 [SLAM document files].

[4] In 1934, the painting was exhibited by D. A. Hoogendijk in Amsterdam and it was included under his name in an advertisement in 1940 ["Schilderijen uit het bezit D.A. Hoggendijk & Co: tentoongesteld van 27 october t/m 12 november". Amsterdam 1934, cat. no. 4; "Stillevens en bloemen van dertig schilders van heden". Haags Gemeentemuseum, March - June 1940].

[5] Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, March 3, 1955.
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