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Balthasar van der Ast: 'Flowers in a Vase with Shells and Insects'

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Balthasar van der Ast has painted an arrangement of common flowers - irises, tulips, roses, carnations, antirrhinum and a fritillary - in a small earthenware vase. Insects - a butterfly, spider, bush cricket and wasp - crawl over them or hover around them. On the shelf on which the vase stands are three shells; in the early 17th century exotic shells were highly prized by Dutch collectors. The composition is carefully balanced in form and colour.

Balthasar van der Ast was the brother-in-law of Ambrosious Bosschaert the Elder, whose still life 'Flowers in a Glass Vase' is in the National Gallery's Collection. He trained in Bosschaert's studio in Middelburg, continuing his master's style of precise descriptions of flowers and fruit.

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