Flowers in a Vase with Shells and Insects

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.

Key facts

Artist dates
1593/94 - 1657
Full title
Flowers in a Vase with Shells and Insects
Date made
about 1630
Medium and support
Oil on oak
47 x 36.8 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 2003
Inventory number
Location in Gallery