Vase with Flowers
Jan van Huysum was the most famous Dutch still-life painter of the 18th century. His depictions of luxuriant flowers in classical vases were greatly admired by collectors who bought his works for unprecedented prices, even during the artist’s lifetime. They particularly admired Van Huysum’s ability to render flowers, fruit and insects with minute attention to detail, while his curved ornate bouquets showed the influence of the French Rococo style that was in fashion at the beginning of the 18th century.
This is one of Van Huysum’s finest works executed on a dark background. He used strong contrasts of light and dark to suggest space and depth; the light shines on and around the flowers to give the bouquet a three-dimensional quality. Around 1720, Van Huysum turned from painting on a dark to a light background, believing the flowers and fruit would be seen to better effect. He then placed his vases in architectural gardens which hinted at a grand, classical landscape beyond.