The Flower Still-Life Painting of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder in Middelburg, ca, 1600-1620Public Deposited
This dissertation analyzes the role of the Dutch city Middelburg around 1600 in stimulating the flower still-life production of Ambrosius Bosschaert. The shift in power from Antwerp to Amsterdam as the center of the northern European art market around 1600 has received much attention without recognition of the important role played by Middelburg. The city was a crucial destination for Protestant artists and collectors, fleeing religious persecution in Antwerp during the war with Spain, as they moved into the northern Netherlands. Bosschaert was one of the primary practitioners of the genre of flower painting, which came into existence around 1600, and the majority of his painting occurred in Middelburg, where he lived after fleeing Antwerp. The influence of this city on Bosschaert's market, however, has been overlooked. The first half of this dissertation provides a cultural history of Middelburg, establishing the importance of the city's artistic and literary production, overseas trade, luxury market, and garden culture. The painting shop owned by the artist Adriaen van de Venne and his publisher-dealer brother Jan played a vital role in the city's cultural and intellectual life and will be used in chapter 2 to introduce Middelburg around 1620. Chapter 3 will concentrate on the garden culture in and around Middelburg, where poets and merchants demonstrated their love of collecting flowers. The second half of the dissertation examines Bosschaert's career as an art dealer and painter in an effort to determine how he responded to Middelburg culture, as laid out in the previous chapters. Chapter 4 explores the overlapping networks of amateur collectors, botanists, merchants, and art dealers and how Bosschaert fit into these social and professional circles. Finally, chapter 5 analyzes Bosschaert's flower painting production. It examines how he engaged traditional painting style and techniques alongside process and product innovations to create highly marketable flower paintings, which commanded high prices and influenced generations of still-life painters. This dissertation concludes that Bosschaert was a transitional artist, borrowing from the Flemish tradition prevalent in Middelburg around 1600 while making market-savvy decisions to appeal to the collecting interests of his new audience in the north.