Anna Ruysch

A still life of flowers on a marble table ledge

Anna Ruysch – sometimes mistakenly called Anna Elisabeth – was born in The Hague in 1666. Her father, Fredericus Ruysch, was an anatomist and botanist. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Amsterdam, where their father made quite a name for himself exhibiting anatomical still life displays, using flowers, plants, fruits and insects. As his daughters grew up surrounded by these displays, they began depicting them from an early age. Later, Anna probably studied with the still life painter Willem van Aelst, like her older sister Rachel. In 1688 Anna married the paint dealer Isaak Hellenbroek. After her husband died, Anna continued the paint business with her son well into old age. She died at 87.

It is generally assumed Anna stopped painting after her wedding; this would have been quite understandable, as the couple had no fewer than six children. As a result of this, and because she rarely signed her works, her known oeuvre is small, although from time to time new discoveries of works by her hand are made. Stylistically, she worked in much the same style as her sister, whose subject matter she also adopted, painting mainly still lives of fruit, flowers and insects.

The present work is very reminiscent of the work of Anna’s sister Rachel, and more specifically of a work by her of smaller dimensions (26 x 22 cm), currently in the Martin von Wagner Museum in Wurzburg, which Anna must have known. Typically of a seventeenth-century flower piece, the work shows flowers from different seasons – amongst others, a sunflower and a tulip – in bloom together, to make for a more attractive picture and varied bouquet. The work is signed and – more importantly – dated, which allows us to situate it in Anna’s oeuvre. In 1685, she was only 19 years old; it would be three more years until she stopped painting altogether.

Artist: Anna Ruysch (The Hague 1666 - 1754 Amsterdam)
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 33 x 29,5 cm
Signed: 'Anna Ruysch 1685', bottom right