A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase

This unusually large work on copper combines the classic elements of Bosschaert’s paintings: a luxuriant, harmoniously balanced bouquet; an exotic Chinese porcelain vase; and rare shells strewn along the ledge. The artist frequently drew inspiration from botanical gardens (Middelburg, where he spent much of his working life, was particularly famed for its botanical gardens) and from the luxury goods imported into the Netherlands by the Dutch East India Company.

The flowers in this arrangement, which include lilies, tulips, roses, and carnations, are painted with almost scientific precision. Bosschaert’s choice of a smooth copper support enhances the extraordinary detail of his brushwork. The bouquet itself, however, is a fiction: these flowers do not bloom at the same time, and would have been far too precious to cut for temporary display.

Key facts

Artist dates
1573 - 1621
Full title
A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase on a Ledge with further Flowers, Shells and a Butterfly
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on copper
68.6 x 50.7 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 2010
Inventory number
Location in Gallery