The Timeless World of Maria Van Oosterwyck

On 02 April 2021, by Philippe Dufour

A rare work by a woman painter met with huge success in Troyes, France: a just reward for this Dutch still life virtuoso, adulated both then and now.

Maria Van Oosterwyck (1630-1693), Bouquet of flowers in a Rhine stoneware vase on an entablature with an arrangement of shells, 101 x 78 cm (39.7 x 20.7 in).
Result: €806,000

Her corpus is as small as Vermeer's, due to the meticulous care she lavished on each of her paintings and the vagaries of history, which led to the loss of many. Yet Maria Van Oosterwyck was not only one of the few female artists of her time in Amsterdam, but also one of the most highly acclaimed for her superb, realistic still lifes. Her patrons included Louis XIV, Austrian Emperor Leopold I and William III of England.

So it was no surprise that her Bouquet of Flowers in a Rhine Stoneware Vase on an Entablature with an Arrangement of Shells, from a property in Lorraine, multiplied its high estimate by six, rocketing to €806,000—finally carried off by a prominent European collector, who battled it out with eight other international bidders by phone. The signed painting also garnered the world's second-highest bid for the artist (source: Artnet).

The magnificent bouquet is certainly a splendid example of her celebrated virtuosity, bringing together flowers from every season: tulips, peonies, aquilegias, irises and viburnums. But the moral message is never far away with this pastor's daughter, whose still lifes can also be seen as vanitas paintings. The insects sipping nectar from the extravagantly blooming flowers speak of the passage of time, while the rare shells evoke the conceit of scientists eager to classify everything: an impossible task.

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