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Rachel Ruysch, Flowers in a Vase

Key facts
Full title Flowers in a Vase
Artist Rachel Ruysch
Artist dates 1664 - 1750
Date made about 1685
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 57 × 43.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Alan Evans, 1974
Inventory number NG6425
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Flowers in a Vase
Rachel Ruysch

Rachel Ruysch’s elegant bouquet carries a breath of autumn. Pear blossom, peonies, honeysuckle and columbine all bloom early in the year, but the burnt orange and deep green of the lilies, the seed pod straggling over the edge of the shelf, the ripe wheat and the dry, veined leaves turn away thoughts of spring.

The light on the pale flowers sweeps upwards, making them luminous. Overhead, Ruysch’s delicate brushstrokes seem to skim over the surface of the picture, so that the dusky blue columbine seem as if they're drifting in the darkness. The plump green pistil at the centre of the peony appears to anchor the flower to prevent it floating away upwards.

Ruysch was one of the most successful flower painters of her time. Her father was keeper of Amsterdam’s botanical garden, a centre of the booming horticultural industry. She had first-hand knowledge of the things she painted, from specimen blooms and new floral imports to the tiny ants, the grasshopper and acrobatic caterpillars that accompany them.

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