17th Century & Flemish Paintings Gallery Level 2, NGV International
Amsterdam in the Golden Age saw the rise of an industry of exceptionally skilled specialist flower painters, many of whom were women, such as Rachel Ruysch (1664–1750), to whom this flowerpiece was once attributed. The demand for such pictures was fuelled by the contemporary passion for botany and the exotic flower bulbs arriving from Levant; tulips, anemones, hyacinths and crocuses. The king of these flowers was Semper Augustus, the red and white ‘flamed’ tulip, which features prominently here. In 1636, at the height of Dutch tulip mania, a single bulb cost several years’ of an artisan’s wage. Indeed, the price of the flowers depicted in canvases such as these far exceeded the pictures themselves.