Hollyhocks and Other Flowers in a Vase

Van Huysum was quick to absorb Jan Davidsz. de Heem’s influence, as well as that of Willem van Aelst, Rachel Ruysch’s teacher. There are certainly strong similarities here to Ruysch’s paintings, such as the dark background and dramatic lighting which give elegance and mystery to this composition. An illusion of depth is created by contrasts of light and shadow but also by colour: light flowers like the big hollyhocks are in the front, and dark ones are in the back. This is typical of Van Huysum’s transitional period, before he began placing his arrangements before a light-coloured background.

The textures of the bouquet are meticulously executed, from the veins, ridges and burned edges of the leaves to the crêpe-like petals of the white poppies and hollyhocks. As these flowers bloom at different times of the year, the artist must have painted this picture over a period of time, or after drawings from nature. The realism of this painting is accentuated by the two snails that are crawling here and there.

Key facts

Artist dates
1682 - 1749
Full title
Hollyhocks and Other Flowers in a Vase
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
62.1 x 52.3 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number
Location in Gallery