Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder

Dates1573 - 1621

During the 1600s the Dutch became Europe's leading horticulturists, and exotic flowers became a national obsession. Not surprisingly, flower painters were among the best-paid artists. In 1621, Ambrosius Bosschaert commanded a thousand guilders for a single flower picture. Nonetheless, his output was relatively small, for he was also an art dealer, handling works by artists like Paolo Veronese. Anticipating religious persecution, in 1587 Bosschaert's parents moved from Antwerp to Middelburg, a seaport and trading center second in importance only to Amsterdam. Six years later Bosschaert joined Middelburg's Guild of Saint Luke. Bosschaert originated a genre that continued in that city until the mid-1600s: a symmetrically composed bouquet of flowers painted with seemingly scientific accuracy, more voluminous than those of his Antwerp contemporary Jan Brueghel the Elder. Bosschaert's works have been called flower portraits; each flower receives the same detailed attention as a face in a portrait. Usually small scale and on copper, Bosschaert's paintings combined blooms from different seasons, painted from separate studies of each flower. It is not unusual to find the same flower, shell, or insect in many pictures. Like his predecessors, Bosschaert sometimes included symbolic or religious meanings, such as the transience of life.