Jan van Huysum’s depictions of luxuriant flowers in classical vases reinvigorated still-life painting in the 18th century. Collectors admired the way he rendered flowers, fruit and insects with minute attention to detail: he applied his paint with delicate brushes - some might have only had a single hair. These were ideal for depicting the vein structure of a leaf or the translucency of a water droplet.

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.


  • Title: Vase with Flowers
  • Date: c.1720
  • Physical Dimensions: w606 x h791 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Notes: A 19th century copy in the collection of Simon Dobbs, Kingsbridge, Devon.
  • Work Nationality: Dutch
  • Support: Panel
  • Provenance: London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Inscriptions: Jan van Huysum fecit
  • Further Information: The skill of works such as this lies in their combination of profuse variety and minute details. Here, fine grasses, moss, feathers, eggshell, droplets of water, ants, a ladybird and other insects, the many varieties of flower - iris, convolvulus minor, flax, London pride, veronica, larkspur, poppies, orange blossom, French marigolds, auriculas, tulips, salvias, forget-me-nots and roses - and the marble ledge, are all means of displaying the artist's skill. Van Huysum's paintings often bear a double date, indicating that he delayed completion until the flowers he wished to paint came into season.
  • Artist: van Huysum, Jan
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)

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