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Bosschaerts - Persyn Genealogical research - Known painters

Bosschaerts - Persyn Genealogical research - Known painters

Biography of Ambrosius-III Bosschaert (1573-1621)

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He was baptised in Antwerp (Church of Our Lady) on 18 November 1573 and died in 1621 in ‘s Gravenhage [NL]. He was the only child of Ambrosius (II) and Janneke VAN DE MORAS. It is not clear how or why or by whom it was thought that Ambrosius might initially have been a love child for whom the parents had to marry.

In art literature Ambrosius III is mentioned as Ambrosius ‘the Elder’.
Ambrosius signed his work with a monogram: a dot, then a large capital A within which a smaller capital B, followed by another dot.
Ambrosius Bosschaert, in his early years moved from Antwerp to Middelburg [NL] with his parents.
Some lexicons and handbooks erroneously state that Ambrosius (III) is mentioned in the Antwerp records of the guild of St. Luke as a painter during the years 1588-89. This is a clear instance of confusing Ambrosius (III) with his father, Ambrosius (II).
It is not known when Ambrosius (II) and his family fled to Middelburg. After the capture of Antwerp, Parma, the Vice-Regent, gave the remaining protestants four years to leave the city. Ambrosius probably left after that period. Maria, the daughter of Ambrosius III when writing about her family mentions ‘ten tijden dat Schaffer gebrant is’ (in the days when Schaffer was burnt). We can only say that Ambrosius II went to Middelburg with his son Ambrosius III between 1588 and 1593. In 1593 Ambrosius III is first mentioned in the records of the Guild of St. Luke in Middelburg as a ‘beleeder’ or member of the Board. The painter was then about 20 year old. In the years that followed Ambrosius is regulary mentioned as dean or past-dean of the Guild: in 1597, 1598, 1603, 1604, 1612 and 1613. He lived and worked in the capital of Zeeland.

Flowers in a vase,
1614, 26x20cm

Still life of Flowers, 1614

4 Tulips in a Goblet,
1615, 19x13cm, copper

Flowers in a Glass window, 1619

Ambrosius III is well known as a painter but he specialised in one particular genre: the flower piece. Art historian L. J. Bol in his excellent work “The Bosschaert Dynasty”, describes Ambrosius as a flower and fruit painter, but the fruit paintings are limited to some ‘sins of one’s youth’. Only two fruit still lives of Ambrosius III receive a mention. Some other authorities maintain that Ambrosius would have painted seascapes and landscapes. They base their views on a warrant for payment for the Receiver-General of the States of Zeeland, dated 23 May 1612, which states: ‘aen Ambrosius Bosschaert, schilder, de somme van veertich ponden grooten Vlaems tot voldoeninghe van een stuck schilderie, wesende de slach tusschen onse oirlochschepen ende de Spaensche galleijen van Spinola geschiet, dwelck van hem is ghecocht tot een cieraet van de raetcamer …’. (to Ambrosius Bosschaert, painter, the sum of forty Flemish Pounds in payment for a painting of a battle between our warships and the Spanish galleons of Spinola, the same having been bought from him to adorn the Council Chamber …)
This document only states that Ambrosius has delivered a painting, not that he has painted it himself!
Ambrosius was an artdealer of renown, even in foreign works of art.
In 1612 Ambrosius applies to the Admiralty of Zeeland for permission to export to, and import from, England an unlimited quantity of paintings on condition that he pay the required duties thereon. (‘het vrij uytvoeren na Enghelant ende weder innebrenghen van eene groote schoone quantiteyt schilderijen, die hij bij hem heeft, mits betalende slants gherechticheijt vande schilderijen die aldaar vercocht zullen worden.’)
The Admiralty of Zeeland’s reply is found in the Minutes of 10 November 1612 to the effect that Ambrosius, together with another painter who appears to have been authorised to buy paintings in England, will have their purchases inspected and valued so that all their expenses can be fully met by the Admiralty. (‘dat des suppliants schilderijen by ghecommiteerden uyten Rade, ten overstaen van twee schilders, hun des verstaende, zullen ghevisiteert ende ghepriseert worden van alle de stucken nae de weerde’ and ‘sal gherestitueert worden tghene hij voor de schilderijen sal betaelt hebben, die wederom ghebrocht zullen worden’)
This makes it quite clear that Ambrosius was not only a painter of flower pieces and also an art dealer.

Traditionally flowers were always associated with the saints but with the rise of Protestantism, the saints being removed by the iconoclasts, only the flowers were left. This explains why in the days of Ambrosius a growing interest in flowers developed, especially in flowers from distant countries. This was one of the factors that led to the triumphal entry of the tulip and the tuliptrade into western Europe.
The flowers were so popular that those who could not afford to buy real tulips, could have them painted by famous artists such as the “velvet” Brueghel and many others including the Bosschaerts and the van der Asts.
Wealthy citizens, keen gardeners and owners of botanical gardens managed thus to have their favourite blooms, tulips as well as roses, irises and lilies immortalised in paint, on panels one could frame and hang among the splendid Dutch and Flemish furniture of the day.

Bouquet in a window arch,
1620, 64x46cm

Bouquet of flowers in a window,
1620, 23x17cm

Bouquet of flowers in a glass vase, 1621, 26x 36cm, oil on copper

Still Life of flowers, anno 1620

Ambrosius worked with an inspired patience, assiduously striving for a faithful image of the flower, comparable with contemporary Dutch family portraits. They were individual portraits placed beside and above each other, each one a faithful reproduction of a well loved face, recognisable as such.
No single one is subordinated, or sacrificed for the sake of composition, lighting, atmosphere or tonality. The only concession made is to the salient position given to the leading figure, usually a flower of importance. In his striving for sheer perfection Bosschaert sometimes tends to move towards super-realism: no flower is left in shade, every corolla emerges clear and radiant in its own colour, bathing in the same ‘impartial’ light. All subjects appear simultaneously in the foreground, united in time and space, a union forged by the painter: a successful tour de force.
Ambrosius must have possessed a fund of flower studies - water-colour drawings, oil sketches? - which he tapped when composing his painted bouquets. We see a number of repetitions of the same flower in different paintings by his hand.
The flower piece, as introduced in Middelburg by Bosschaert, held that form until 1650-1660. It is a symmetrically constructed bouquet of primarily cultivated flowers, minutely, analytically painted in a scientific, naturalistic conception. The bouquet of flowers has roses at its base, tulips in the centre, also often in the top-layer with and a precious, glorious or expensive gem as pendant. Dewdrops, small creatures - a fly, catterpillar, beetle, dragonfly, butterfly - and often also shells are his favourite accessories. The bouquet stands against a monochrome background and is sometimes enclosed by a arched niche. The great number of variations on this often used Bosschaert scheme can be found only in Ambrosius Bosschaert himself: a still life composed exclusively of roses or of tulips, a bouquet placed before a window overlooking a landscape.
In literature of art it is often suggested that Velvet Brueghel could have been the mentor of Ambrosius. This is unlikely in view of the fact that Breughel and Ambrosius could not have met for the simple reason that Breughel on completing his apprenticeship first went to Cologne and afterwards to Italy where he stayed until 1597, whereas the Young Ambrosius in approx. 1587, after the fall of Antwerp, emigrated to Middelburg where by 1593 he was already a member of the board of the Guild of St. Luke.
Yet there are congruent elements in the works Velvet Brueghel painted at Antwerp and in the bouquets from Bosschaert’s Middelburg period. One is inclined to think that both might have worked from the same engravings and sketches, the originals of which have never been found.
In 1615 Ambrosius Bosschaert resided within Middelburg. He also often visited Arnemuiden, where for instance his son Ambrosius (IV) was baptized. At the end of 1614 Ambrosius moved to Bergen op Zoom, but he did not stayed there for long. In March 1616 Ambrosius was already resident in Utrecht. In the Guild books of Utrecht there is mention of Ambrosius refusing to pay his obligatory ontributions in the period 1616-1618. With the arrival of Ambrosius in Utrecht, this city became the centre of flower painting. Also Balthasar van der Ast (the brother-in-law of Ambrosius) and Roelandt Savery soon established themselves in Utrecht, while his son Ambrosius (IV) continued the tradition of his father a few years later in the Domstad (City of the Dom).
Before the end of 1619 Ambrosius III moved for the last time and returned to Breda. The last years of his life were very productive. Ambrosius makes in the period 1619 - 1621 a large number paintings. The apotheosis of his work is the large panel of 129 x 85 cm. He takes this masterpiece personally to Den Haag to deliver it at the stadholder. In the house of ‘Jonkheer’ Frederik Schuurmans, the father of the known Anna Maria, Ambrosius died after a brief illness.

In 1604 Ambrosius married Maria VAN DER AST, daughter of Hans van der Ast and Heyltken Mertens.
Maria is the sister of the famous painter Balthasar van der Ast (1593/94-1657). Balthasar and his older brother Hans Van der Ast must have spent much time in the studio of Ambrosius III. It is probable that, after the death of the elder Van der Ast, Balthasar was taken in by Ambrosius and his wife. A strong influence of Ambrosius on the young Balthasar was to be expected. Although Balthasar has a different style and his works are more modern, this influence of Ambrosius is clearly recognisable.

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© Rudi Bosschaerts, 2003
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