Floral still life in mother-of-pearl, Amsterdam
The domed rectangular panel displays a flower-filled vase entirely made of engraved mother-of-pearl, inlaid in ebony and rosewood on oak. Around the flowers fluttering insects can be seen, as well as a beetle crawling below. Most of the flowers can be identified. However, the bouquet is not a realistic representation, for both spring and summer flowering plants are combined. Furthermore, a huge bouquet like this, if it were assembled, never would have fitted in this vase, as was the case with seventeenth century still life paintings of flower bouquets.
The artist who made this work of art in mother-of-pearl is Dirck van Rijswijck. He was born in Cleves, Germany in 1596 and probably did his apprenticeship as a goldsmith there. Around 1620 he lived in Antwerp, where he married and where two of his three children were born. Around 1630 he left for Amsterdam with his family, where he settled in Beerestraat as a goldsmith. He died in 1679.
Although he has always been referred to as a goldsmith, there is actually no single jewel that can be attributed to him. From archival sources it is known that he mounted rings for Isabella Brant (1591-1626) the spouse of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).
Presumably, Van Rijswijck did make jewels in Amsterdam. Around 1650 he devoted himself to the production of silver commemorative medals of which at least four are still known. In this period he also focused on making plaques inlaid with mother-of-pearl, coloured bone and marble. Often these were still lives of flowers and table tops. The artist worked in this technique until his death in 1679.
This work by Dirck van Rijswijck belongs to a group of undated works that almost all display a domed arch and mother-of-pearl inlay in ebony. Since the first extensive study in 1909 into the work of Dirk van Rijswijk this group of undated works (Kisluk no. XXV-XXII) has been placed in the beginning of Van Rijswijck’s activities as mother-of-pearl worker in the 1650s. Sterck, author of the first study in the annual issue of the Koninklijk Oudheidkundig Genootschap (KOG), already suggested on the basis of two dated works from 1653 and 1654 that Van Rijswijck developed his technique in this period by inlaying in ebony, rather than in stone, and that all the works in which he used stone/marble are from a later date. Stylistic similarities that support this idea are the domed arch in almost all the works in the group and the individual flowers that are always draped on the floor next to the vase. Similarities between this work and the 1654 work in Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden will be mentioned later. The nineteenth century label with a description on the back of this panel notes that this work would be a counterpart of the work in Dresden.
The feature of the domed arch in this work by Van Rijswijck has probably been derived from prints and paintings by still life painters such as Ambrosius Bosschaert (1573-1621), in which a similar small vase with a huge bouquet of flowers was placed in a niche.
Flower still lives of mother-of-pearl inlaid in ebony are mentioned in various eighteenth century auction catalogues. Their short descriptions, however, give too few leads to connect this work to one of those entries.
“D. van Rijswijk, Op een Ebbenhoute Plaat. Op dezelve is zeer Konstig ingelegd, een pot met verscheidene Zoorten van Bloemen” (D. van Rijswijk, On an Ebony Panel. This ingeniously inlaid vase with various flowers) Auction catalogue J. de Bosch and J. Yver Amsterdam 6 November 1776, lot 202.
“2 stuks met Bloemen en Insecten zeer konstig van Perlamoer in swart ebbenhout ingelegt, door Dirck van Ryswyck”(Two pieces with flowers and insects of mother-of-pearl inlaid in ebony) Auction catalogue collection of the late Bernardus de Bosch, Auction house J. de Bosch and J. Yver, Amsterdam 24-25 April 1787, lot 33.
The famous seventeenth century Dutch poet and contemporary Joost van den Vondel praised Dirck van Rijswijk’s work in a poem, because Van Rijswijck’s art was beyond comparison, not even with the finest Chinese object that could be imagined. Van den Vondel was familiar with Van Rijswijck's work as no other, since the two lived in the same street. In travel reports by foreign travellers, Van Rijswijck's workshop and the art that was presented were praised as something very special. Cosimo de Medici visited a pearl workshop once on his journey through the Netherlands. Although the name of the artist was not mentioned, this was undoubtedly Dirck van Rijswijck. In 1728 August II, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony bought the 1654 panel at the Nicolaes Witsen auction, now in the collection of Grünes Gewölbe. A table top, now lost, was already in the castle Sans Souci in Potsdam in the eighteenth century.
The Rothschild family owned the largest plaque in the nineteenth century. Around 1865 it was fitted into in a piece of furniture inspired by André Charles Boulle for Baron Lionel Nathan de Rotschild (1801 8-1879). In 1937 this cabinet was auctioned with the collection of Victor de Rothschild.
Dirck van Rijswijck’s fame, certainly present during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gradually faded and disappeared almost completely at the beginning of the twentieth century. An article in the annual issue of KOG by collector JFM Sterck slightly increased the knowledge about the artist, but still the work of Dirck van Rijswijck remained only well known among real connoisseurs. The small number of about 43 works that have survived (the catalogue from 1997 mentions 41 and two unpublished works resurfaced over the past twenty years) does not help to increase the knowledge about this seventeenth-century artist.
Besides some Dutch museums and the aforementioned Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden, other leading museums such as the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the National Museum Stockholm, the Joanneum in Graz and the Umelecko Museum in Prague have a plaque of this unrivalled master in their collections.
D. Kisluk-Grosheide, Dirck van Rijswijck (1596 - 1679), a Master of Mother-of-Pearl, Oud Holland 111, nr 2 (1997) p.p.134/135, No.XXVI
Probably acquired by Georg Theodor Osius in Berlin in 1840, his collection Hanau/Kassel
Thence by descent:
Major Georg Ludwig Osius Haus Tanneck Harleshausen in the surroundings of Kassel Germany
Thence by descent:
R. Osius Harleshausen.
Private collection Westphalia since 1995
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