Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge

Rachel Ruyschca. 1680s - ca. 1680s

National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts
Washington, D.C., United States

The exuberant profusion of flowers in this still life by Rachel Ruysch celebrates color, texture, and form. Her minute attention to detail captured even the individual grains of pollen inside each open flower. 

The dynamic, pyramid-shaped composition derives much of its energy from the asymmetrical arrangement of the blossoms, further accentuated by the wildly curving stems and dramatically highlighted central section. The dark background reveals a hint of architecture, demonstrating Ruysch's awareness of this new compositional trend among flower painters in Amsterdam.

While this painting contains several elements that would also be found in the popular 17th-century Dutch picture type known as a vanitas, scholars doubt that this was Ruysch's intention. A true “vanitas” painting stresses the brevity of earthly life and the inevitability of death and decay, through such objects as a snuffed-out candle or a worm-eaten fruit.

Ruysch’s depiction of insects alighting on the flowers or leaves that are beginning to turn brown, seems more a straightforward depiction of life rather than a moralizing statement on death.


  • Title: Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge
  • Creator: Rachel Ruysch
  • Creator Lifespan: 1664/1750
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Creator Death Place: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Creator Birth Place: The Hague, the Netherlands
  • Date: ca. 1680s - ca. 1680s
  • artist profile: Rachel Ruysch was successful for nearly 70 years as a specialist in flower paintings.  Ruysch’s maternal grandfather, Pieter Post, was an important architect,and her father, Frederik Ruysch, an eminent scientist. From him, she learned how to observe and record nature with great accuracy. At 15, she was apprenticed to the well-known Dutch flower painter Willem van Aelst. From that point on, she produced various kinds of still lifes, mainly flower pieces and woodland scenes. In 1701, Ruysch became a member of the painters’ guild in The Hague. At that time, she began producing large flower works for an international circle of patrons. Several years later, Ruysch was invited to Düsseldorf to serve as court painter to Johann Wilhelm, the Elector Palatine of Bavaria. She remained there from 1708 until the prince’s death in 1716. After returning to Holland, Ruysch kept painting fruit and flower pictures for a prominent clientele. She remained artistically active, proudly inscribing her age on a canvas she completed in 1747, at age 83. Despite the changes in popularity of flower paintings during the years since her death, Ruysch’s reputation has never waned.
  • Style: Baroque
  • Physical Dimensions: w33 x h42.5 in (Without frame)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • External Link: National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts’ Exhibitions: “Trove: The Collection in Depth,” 2011; “Four Centuries of Women’s Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts,” 1990–91

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