Jan van HUIJSUM
Amsterdam, baptised 15 April 1682–Amsterdam, 8 February 1749, buried 13 February in the Westerkerk
Dutch painter and draughtsman
Jan van Huijsum was the last great exponent of Dutch flower painting – even, as Denning said, ‘the last of [the] great Dutch masters’.1 He studied with his father, Justus van Huysum I (1659–1716), who was a flower painter too, and probably an art dealer as well. In 1704 he left the family workshop to set up as an independent master. He is recorded as having had only one student, Margaretha Haverman (1690/1700–in or after 1723), who worked briefly in his studio. He may also have taught his daughter, Francina Margaretha van Huysum (1707–79). Little is known of his apparently uneventful life, and he seems never to have travelled abroad.
His œuvre consists of some dozens of arcadian or classical landscapes and more than two hundred known still lifes, on which his fame is based. These typically show luxuriant flowers in a classicizing vase on a stone plinth or table; often there is a bird’s nest. His early works still have a traditional symmetrical composition, reflecting the influence of painters such as Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606–84) and Abraham Mignon (1640–79), and the dark background that was then usual. Later, however, Van Huijsum’s compositions assume diagonal, S-shaped forms that are quite Rococo, and he was the first to introduce a light background. His flowers and fruit are intensely realistic-looking, though in real life they often bloomed or ripened at different times of year. Some paintings have several different dates (see under DPG120, Related works, no. 8): he had to wait for the right season.
Van Huijsum counted many of the great and good among his patrons, including Philippe II, duc d’Orléans (1674–1723), Wilhelm VIII von Hessen-Kassel (1682–1760), Friedrich Wilhelm I von Preussen (1688–1740), and many Amsterdam merchants. Sir Robert Walpole (1st Earl of Orford; 1676–1745) commissioned four paintings from him, and Sir Gregory Page (2nd Baronet; c. 1695–1775) six. After his death, too, his work was sought after and was very expensive, as his paintings stayed in excellent condition thanks to his delicate technique. Van Huijsum’s manner powerfully influenced 18th-century flower painting in Europe.
Haberland 1996a; Kolfin 2006; Segal, Ellens & Dik 2006; Saur, lxxvi, 2013, pp. 102–3 (G. Seelig); Ecartico, no. 407: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/407 (as Jan van Huysum II; Jan. 6, 2018); RKDartists&, no. 40849: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/40849 (Jan. 6, 2018)
Portrait of Jan van Huijsum (1682-1749), c. 1720
canvas, oil paint 93 x 76 cm
Oxford (England), Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, inv./cat.nr. A 877
DPG120 – Vase with flowers
?Insurance 1804, no. 85 (‘A Flower Piece, Old Vanhuysum’, £500);2 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 25, no. 255 (‘Small Drawing Room / no. 8, Flower piece – compn to 4 [=DPG139] – P[anel] V. Huysum’; 3'8" x 2'6").
Cat. 1817, p. 8, no. 124 (‘SECOND ROOM – West Side; Flowers; Vanhuysum’); Haydon 1817, p. 381, no. 124;3 Cat. 1820, p. 8, no. 124; Patmore 1824b, p. 29, no. 102; Cat. 1830, p. 8, no. 140; Smith 1829–42, vi (1835), pp. 486–7, no. 107 (‘Worth 300 gs.’); Jameson 1842, ii, p. 465, no. 140 (‘Van Huysum; Flowers’); Waagen 1854, ii, p. 345;4 Denning 1858, no. 140 (‘in Van Huysum’s earlier style […] after the style of Rachel Ruisch’); Denning 1859, no. 140; Sparkes 1876, pp. 191–2, no. 140 (‘A fine example of the master’); Richter & Sparkes 1880, pp. 77–8, no. 140;5 Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 30, no. 120; HdG, x, 1928, p. 364, no. 125 (as having been purchased by Desenfans); Cook 1914, p. 71, no. 120; Cook 1926, p. 67, no. 120; Cat. 1953, p. 24; Grant 1954, p. 23, no. 86; Paintings 1972, pp. 50a, ; Murray 1980a, p. 71; Murray 1980b, p. 16; Beresford 1998, pp. 136–7; Shawe-Taylor 2000, p. 49; Segal, Ellens & Dik 2006, pp. 68–9, 346 (note 4), fig. 6.1; Dejardin 2009b, pp. 10–11; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 114–15; RKD, no. 117845: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/117845 (Jan. 6, 2018).
London 1952–3, p. 62, no. 310 (fig. 24 in Illustrated Souvenir); London 1996, pp. 84, 87, 90, no. 29 (P. Taylor); Houston/Louisville 1999–2000, pp. 168–9, no. 55 (D. Shawe-Taylor); Cologne/Dordrecht/Kassel 2006–7, pp. 162–3, no. 29 (F. G. Meijer, c. 1715).
Mahogany panel with vertical grain. Tan-coloured double ground. A sophisticated range of blue and green pigments were used by the artist. The panel has a very slight concave warp and is chamfered along the right and top verso edges. There is a series of small partial splits along the bottom edge. The reverse of the panel has been painted with a granular red-brown layer. There are old (filled) woodworm holes down the front right side of the panel. The paint film is generally in excellent condition. Widespread tiny losses, such as those on the poppy, affect the paint film; it was the occurrence of this micro-abrasion that prompted the recent treatment of the painting. An old (now removed) thick natural resin varnish layer may have contributed to this problem. There are tiny pentimenti in the stalks and flowers; in the background to the left of the iris is a larger pentimento. The greens have discoloured, becoming more blue-looking, almost certainly as a result of the fading of a fugitive yellow pigment. The blue irises appear slightly blanched, and the blacks and some of the foliage are slightly reticulated. Previous recorded treatment: 1867, ‘revived’ and revarnished; 1949–53, Dr Hell; 2004, consolidated, cleaned and retouched, N. Ryder; technical analysis, A. Burnstock.
1) Possible pendant: Jan van Huijsum, Flower Still Life, signed Jan Van Huysum / fecit, c. 1716–17, panel, 78.8 x 59.7 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 98.80 .6
2a, 2b) Copy after DPG120, together with a copy after the Houston painting (no. 1): pendants, both copper, 79.7 x 61 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, 2000; Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell).7
3) Jan van Huijsum, Flower Piece, signed Jan Van Hüysum Fecit, copper, 79 x 60.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Sotheby’s, New York, 26 Jan. 2012, lot 57; on the London art market in 1972; Morris collection, London, 1954; Czernin Gallery, Vienna, by 1805).
4) Jan van Huijsum, Flower Still Life, dated 1714, panel, 79 x 60.3 cm. Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, 380 .8
5a) Copy: 18th century, Still Life of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase on a Stone Plinth, after 1715, probably 18th-century, canvas, 90 x 71 cm. KMSKA, Antwerp, 427 .9
5b) Copy: 19th century, panel, c. 57.6 x 61.2 cm. Simon Dobbs collection, Kingsbridge, Devon.10
6) A glass vase: Maria van Oosterwijck, Flowers in a Cylindrical Glass Decorative Vase on a Marble Ledge, panel, 46.4 x 36.8 cm. Royal Collection Trust, RCIN405626.11
7) A metal vase: Jan van Huijsum, Still Life of Flowers and Fruit, signed Jan Van Huysum fecit, panel, 81.6 x 62.9 cm. The Edward and Sally Speelman Collection.12
8) A terracotta vase: Jan van Huijsum, Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, signed and dated Jan Van Hùijsùm / fecit 1736 / en. 1737, canvas, 133.5 x 91.5 cm. NG, London, NG796.13
Painted around 1715, according to Meijer in 2006, this depicts flowers in a vase and a bird’s nest with five eggs beside it, on a marble slab, against a dark background. The flowers consist of tulips, roses, poppies, auriculas, French marigolds, orange blossom, salvias, London pride, forget-me-not, veronica, iris, larkspur, flax, and convolvulus minor . The vase is made of glass or stone, however, and not of terracotta as Meijer asserts (for examples of glass, metal and terracotta vases see Related works, nos 6–8).
Paul Taylor in 1996 noted that the vase is decorated with high-relief putti in the style of François Du Quesnoy (1597–1643); Meijer considered that this was one of the first paintings in which that element appears. The motif was also used by Van Huijsum in a flower piece formerly in Vienna (Related works, no. 3); and also in DPG139.
Smith suggested that the eggs in the nest were those of a chaffinch, but the 1905 Dulwich catalogue asserted that they were chiefly those of a hedge-sparrow, and that one was a cuckoo’s egg. Gaskell in 1984 noted that eggs in still life paintings had been interpreted as signifying the life cycle or the Resurrection, and regarded that as far-fetched, though he found the inclusion of the cuckoo’s egg intriguing, evoking a number of themes such as adultery, ingratitude, and the nativity of Christ;14 he thought that Van Huijsum was chiefly concerned to demonstrate his ability to depict different textures, colours and forms, in effect rewarding viewers for their close attention. Close attention will similarly be rewarded by the many insects that populate the picture – beetle, bee, butterfly, ant, ladybird and fly – as well as by the numerous water droplets.
Meijer suggested that a painting in Houston (Related works, no. 1)  might have been painted as or later used as a pendant to DPG120. He based this suggestion on a pair of copies, one after DPG120 and one after the picture in Houston (Related works, nos 2a, 2b).
Jan van Huijsum
Vase with flowers with birdnest on a stone plint, c. 1715
panel (mahogany), oil paint 79,1 x 60,6 cm
lower left : Jan Van Húijsúm fecit
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG120
Jan van Huijsum
Still Life of flowers with a peony and a tuberose in top in a vase with putti on a stone plinth, 1716/1717
panel, oil paint 78,8 x 59,7 cm
lower left : Jan Van Huysum / fecit
Houston (Texas), Museum of Fine Arts Houston, inv./cat.nr. 98.80
Jan van Huijsum
Flowerpiece in a niche with a bird nest and a snail, dated 1714
panel (oak), oil paint 79 x 60,3 cm
lower left : Jan Van Huijsum fecit 1714 (V and H together)
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, inv./cat.nr. 380
after Jan van Huijsum
Still Life of flowers in a terracotta vase on a stone plinth, after 1715, probably 18th-century
canvas, oil paint 90 x 71 cm
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, inv./cat.nr. 427
- French Marigold - Tagetes erecta plena
- Provins Rose - Rosa x provincalis
- Forget-me-not - Myosotis palustris
- Baguette Tulip - Tulipa stellata x T. clusiana
- Bentgrass - Agrostis tenuis
- Streaked Cranesbill - Geranium versicolor
- African Marigold - Tagetes erecta plena
- Small Morning Glory - Convulvulus tricolor
- Yellowish Auricula - Primula x pubescens lutea
- Cardinal Flower - Lobelia cardinalis
- White Rose - Rosa x alba
- Meadow Cranesbill - Geranium pratense
- Small Catchfly - Silene gallica
- Feverfew - Tanacetum parthenium
- Orange blossom - Citrus aurantium
- Blue auricula - Primula x pubescens ardesiaca
- Flax - Linum usitatissimum
- Meadow grass - Poa pratensis
- Toadflax - Linaria vulgaris
- Milkwort - Polygala vulgaris
- English Iris - Iris latifolia
- Bachelor’s Buttons - Ranunculus
- Red Turban Cap Lily - Lilium chalcedonicum
- Long-leaved Speedwell - Veronica longifolia
- Baguette Tulip - Tulipa clusiana x T. stellata
- Dark Persian Tulp - Tulipa clusiana hybrid
- Dark Scabious - Scabiosa atropurpurea
- Pheasant’s Eye - Adonis annua
- Violet Auricula - Primula x pubescens violacea
- Peony - Paeonia officinalis plena
- Wallflower - Erysinum cheiri
- London Pride - Saxifraga umbrosa
- Pansy - Viola tricolor
A. Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae
B. 13-spot Ladybird - Hippodamia tredecimpunctata
C. Hoverfly - Syrphus vitirpennis?
D. Rose Sawfly - Emphytus cinctus?
E. Black Ants (9) - Lasius niger
F. Moon Spot Hoverfly - Scaeva pyrastri
G. Honey Bee - Apis mellifera
H. Wasp Hoverfly - Syrphus ribesii
Diagram of the flowers and small animals, by Sam Segal
Follower of Jan van Huijsum
DPG139 – Vase with flowers
18th century; canvas, 84.1 x 62.2 cm
Signed, bottom right: Jan Van Huysum15
?Charles-Alexandre de Calonne sale, Skinner and Dyke, London, 28 March 1795 (Lugt 5289), lot 8 (‘Van Huysum; A Vase with Flowers. The great merits of this artist are so well known, it is needless to say more than its being a capital and beautiful picture’; sold or bt in, £28 7s.);16 ?Insurance 1804, no. 81 (‘A Flower Piece, Young Vanhuysum’, £150);17 Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 25, no. 251 (‘Small Drawing Room / no. 4, Flower piece – C[anvas] Van Huysum’; 3'8" x 3').
Cat. 1817, p. 8, no. 132 (‘SECOND ROOM – West Side; Flowers; Vanhuysum’); Haydon 1817, p. 382, no. 132;18 Cat. 1820, p. 8, no. 132; Patmore 1824b, p. 30, no. 124;19 Cat. 1830, p. 7, no. 121; Jameson 1842, ii, p. 461, no. 121;20 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 121 (‘It is in Van Huysum’s (or his) later style’);21 Sparkes 1876, p. 191, no. 121;22 Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 77, no. 121;23 Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 35, no. 139; HdG, x, 1928, pp. 364–5, no. 126 (confused with Smith, no. 107, and wrongly said to have belonged to Desenfans; Außergewöhnlich breit gemalt (exceptionally broadly painted)); Cook 1914, p. 83, no. 139; Cook 1926, p. 78, no. 139; Cat. 1953, p. 24; Grant 1954, p. 23, no. 87; Murray 1980a, p. 71; Murray 1980b, p. 16; Potterton 1986, p. 189, under no. 50 (Jacob Xavery; Related works, no. 2); Beresford 1998, p. 138 (‘imitator of Van Huysum’); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 116–17; RKD, no. 118317: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/118317 (Jan Xaverij; 6 Jan. 2018).
London/Washington/Los Angeles 1985–6, pp. 74–5, no. 16 (I. Gaskell; Jan van Huysum); Tokyo/Shizuoka/Osaka/Yokohama 1986–7, pp. 88–9, no. 17 (I. Gaskell; in Japanese).
Fine plain-weave linen canvas. Pale grey ground with thinly painted upper layers. The canvas has been lined onto fine cloth; the original tacking margins have been cut. The original canvas is 1 cm short of the top and the bottom of the stretcher. There is a (mended and retouched) hole in the left part of the plinth. The ground shows some signs of lifting from the canvas, possibly as a result of the failure of the size layer. Some mechanical craquelure is noticeable in the light areas of the painting, and there is heavy craquelure in the stalks. The paint film is fairly abraded from previous treatments. This has affected the modelling and made the canvas texture more obvious. Abrasion has also made pentimenti more prominent, such as the change in position of the poppy stalk that is visible through the tulip to the right. The red glazes in the central peony have faded, and possibly in the two pink roses. Previous recorded treatment: 1867, ‘revived’ and revarnished; 1921, relined and probably revarnished; 1949–53, Dr Hell; 1984, surface cleaned and retouched, National Maritime Museum, S. Sanderson.
1) Jacob Xavery, Vase with Flowers, signed Jacob Xaverij fecit.17.2, canvas, 59.5 x 46 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Servarts (Brussels), 20–22 Nov. 2001, lot 284; Tajan, Etude (Paris), 30 March 1998, lot 13) .24
2) Jacob Xavery, A Garland of Flowers Hanging from a Bough, canvas, 68.5 x 56.4 cm. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 50.25
3) Preparatory drawing: Jan van Huijsum, Flower Still Life, Vase with Putti on a Stone Slab, c. 1720?, black chalk, brush in grey, pen in brown, squared with red chalk, 365 x 273 mm. Albertina, Vienna, 10551 .26
DPG139 has many elements characteristic of Van Huijsum, such as the arrangement of the flowers in an S-curve, the juxtaposition of large and small blossoms, and the dramatic lighting. It was a popular picture, the subject of many postcards. Because of the style, especially the use of the light background, it must have been painted later than DPG120, which has a dark background. In 1979 Segal attributed it to Jacob Xavery (1736–in or after 1774). Later, in a discussion of a Xavery picture in Dublin (Related works, no. 2), he drew attention to the fact that several Xavery signatures had been changed to Van Huijsum, including that on DPG139.27 Meijer repeated the attribution to Xavery in 2006, but commented that it would seem to be of somewhat better quality and of a cooler tonality than Xavery’s known, and often uneven, œuvre (Related works, no. 1) .28 However the condition of the painting needs to be taken into account before any decision can be made concerning attribution. Much has been lost in the upper layers, and the picture is rather dirty, with scattered remains of varnish, producing a flat and dull effect. Cleaning would give one a chance to evaluate the quality. In our opinion it might even be by Van Huijsum himself. What was probably a preparatory drawing is in Vienna (Related works, no. 3) . It seems more logical that Van Huijsum used the drawing himself for DPG139; it is not known that Jacob Xavery got hold of the contents of Van Huijsum’s studio, or that he ever used another preparatory drawing by Van Huijsum.29
The flowers consist of a large overblown tulip, tuberoses, double stocks, roses, auriculas, and a hollyhock. A bird’s nest lower right contains robin’s eggs. The flowers are in a terracotta vase decorated with wrestling putti in the manner of François Du Quesnoy, similar to those on the vase in DPG120.
Britton in his 1813 inventory for what is now DPG120 described this as the pair, but with their great difference in dates that would probably not have been the intention of Van Huijsum – if he was the painter.
Vase with flowers
canvas, oil paint 84,1 x 62,2 cm
lower right : Jan [c] [X]Van Hu [v]ysúm.
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG139
Flower vase on a table, 17..2 (dated)
canvas, oil paint 59,5 x 46 cm
Servarts (Brussels) 2001-11-20 - 2001-11-22, nr. 284
Jan van Huijsum
Flower still life in a vase. decorated with putti on a plinth, c. 1720
paper, pen in brown ink, brush in grey, red chalk, over black chalk 365 x 273 mm
lower right : J. v. Huysum fec.
Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, inv./cat.nr. 10551
1 Denning 1859, no. 29.
2 Desenfans’ Insurance List of 1804 records a picture by the ‘Old Vanhuysum’ and one by the ‘Young Vanhuysum’. It is most probable that Desenfans thought that DPG120 (with the dark background) was by the ‘Old Vanhuysum’, and DPG139 (with the light background) by the ‘Young Vanhuysum’. It is not likely that the references are to the fruit and flower still lifes which were at the time thought to be by Jan van Huysum and to be a pair (DPG42 and DPG61).
3 ‘J. Vanhuysum. Flowers and a Bird’s Nest. As fine a specimen of flower painting as was ever seen.’
4 ‘Another flower-piece on a dark ground is scattered in the arrangement, and rather damaged […] (No. 121).’
5 ‘Highly finished in a cool harmonious tone’.
6 RKD, no. 117941: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/117941 (Jan. 7, 2018); this picture might have been painted as a pendant to DPG120, also based on the pair of copies, one after DPG120 and one after the Houston picture (Related works, no. 1), Meijer 2006, p. 162, under no. 2, note 4. See also Segal, Ellens & Dik 2006, pp. 147–9, F3, where the Dulwich picture is not mentioned.
7 Meijer 2006, p. 162, under no. 29, note 4.
10 Letter from Simon Dobbs to the Curator, 18 Feb. 2000 (with photograph; DPG120 file).
11 Segal, Ellens & Dik 2006, pp. 128–9, no. P8.
12 ibid., pp. 150–53, no. F4.
13 RKD, no. 117763: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/117763 (Jan. 10, 2018); MacLaren & Brown 1991, i, pp. 208–9, NG796, ii, fig. 178; see also https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-huysum-flowers-in-a-terracotta-vase (Jan. 10, 2018).
14 Ivan Gaskell in an unpublished catalogue entry, sent 23 Feb. 1984 to Giles Waterfield (DPG120 file).
15 RKD, no. 118317: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/118317 (Oct. 29, 2012). According to Sam Segal, who examined the picture in 1979, ‘Jan [c] [X]Van Hu [v]ysúm’. The signature was changed: the ‘n’ of Jan was probably a ‘c’; ‘Va’ probably previously ‘Xa’; ‘u’ probably previously ‘v’.
16 Mrs Jameson said that DPG139 was formerly in the Calonne collection (see note 20 below), probably based on Buchanan 1824, i, p. 242. According to Denning she was wrong (see note 21 below). It is indeed not plausible that the picture at the Calonne sale was a real Van Huysum, as they were usually much more expensive: see Insurance 1804, where they were valued at £150 (no. 81; Young Vanhuysum) and £500 (no. 85; Old Vanhuysum). See also note 2.
17 See note 2.
18 ‘J. Vanhuysum. Flowers. A worthy companion to No. 124; although the colour of its back-ground renders it less effective at the first glance.’
19 ‘It will probably be found, on comparing this work with the preceding one [= DPG120], that it possesses more softness, as well as more richness, spirit, and truth of general effect, in proportion as the handling is more free and unlaboured. The work before us resembles one of Rubens’s glowing pieces; while its more finished rival reminds us of the cold unrealities of Mieris or Vanderwerf. There is a motion, a life, almost an odour, in this; while the other seems like a reflection in a mirror.’
20 ‘This is a beautiful specimen of this celebrated flower painter, from the Calonne collection.’
21 1858: ‘This came from the Calonne Collection, acc. to Mrs. Jameson. […] [see note 20]. It seems to have been the picture sold at the Calonne Collection No 8 of the 4 in days sale for £28.7 […]? Smith Cat: Rais: 109. If so engraved by Gareau in the LeBrun Gallery. Mrs. Jameson must be wrong.’ Indeed when we compare the print by J. P. F. Garreau, dated 1787, with DPG139 it is clear that Garreau worked from a different picture (BM, London, 1851,0326.191). So far as we know, there is no link between the picture in the Calonne sale of 1795 and the picture in the Lebrun Gallery. Two pictures by Van Huijsum in another Calonne sale in 1788 (Lugt 4304, 4lot 126) were acquired by Lebrun, but they were on copper (GPID, 15 Nov. 2013); and they cannot have been depicted by Garreau in 1787 as in the Lebrun Gallery. See also note 16.
22 ‘a more freely-painted picture than the one mentioned below [= DPG120]; almost sketchy in its treatment.’
23 ‘Uncommonly broad in execution, of a vaporous tone. Mentioned by Waagen.’
25 http://onlinecollection.nationalgallery.ie/objects/8940/a-garland-of-flowers-hanging-from-a-bough?ctx=6e717389-c451-4e5a-8b1c-2b1f0248cca4&idx=0 (Jan. 7, 2018); Potterton 1986, pp. 188–9, figs 189–90, no. 50.
26 RKD, no. 117962: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/117962 (March 18, 2018); see also https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/?query=Inventarnummer=&showtype=record (Jan. 10, 2018); Schröder & Bisanz-Prakken 2009, pp. 390–91, no. 184; White 1964, p. 22, no. 128.
27 Segal, as cited in Potterton 1986, p. 189.
28 Email from Fred G. Meijer to DPG, Jan. 2006, not found in DPG139 file.
29 Xavery seems to have been too young to have been taught by Jan van Huijsum: the latter died when Xavery was only thirteen years old.