1590 – Antwerp – 1661
Daniel Seghers was born in Antwerp on 3rd December 1590, the son of the silk merchant Pierre Seghers (d. c.1601) and Marguerite van Gheel. He was brought up in the northern Netherlands by his mother, who converted to Calvinism. He began studying painting around 1605 and was enrolled as a Master in the Guild of St Luke in Antwerp in 1611, with Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) named as his teacher. Seghers reconverted to Catholicism and in 1614 entered the Jesuit Order in Mechelen as a novice. He lived in Antwerp from 1617 to 1621. In the latter year he is recorded as a painter at the Collège de Bruxelles, producing two large Garlands of flowers for the cathedral of St Michel in Brussels. In 1625 he took his final vows as a Jesuit priest and henceforth signed his works Daniel Seghers Societatis Jesu. From 1625-27 Seghers was in Rome, painting flower garlands for ecclesiastical patrons. He returned to Antwerp and remained there until his death in 1661, working as a flower painter at the Jesuit house.
Dated paintings exist only from 1635 to 1651 and it is quite difficult to construct a chronology for Seghers’s work. He painted floral garlands and bouquets, usually in a simple glass vase. The garlands, which are characteristically symmetrical, become more elaborate as his career progresses. Seghers eschewed exotic blooms in favour of exquisitely-rendered examples of cultivated garden flowers, particularly roses, tulips and carnations. They are usually depicted in a state of pristine freshness, never overblown or with decay. Seghers’s manner is less linear than that of his teacher Jan Brueghel, with a wonderful directness of brushwork.
Seghers developed the idea of the flower garland round a devotional image, employed by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and others, introducing trompe l’oeil stone cartouches containing a statue, typically of the Virgin, or a holy portrait. These figures were supplied by collaborators, including Rubens himself, Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert (1613/14-1654) and Simon de Vos (1603-1676).
Seghers’s fame spread throughout Europe. As a Jesuit, who had taken a vow of poverty, he was not allowed to accept payment for his work. His paintings were frequently used by his Order as diplomatic gifts, often to Protestant rulers, as symbols of the cultural resurgence of the Counter-Reformation. His works entered the collections of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange-Nassau, Queen Christina of Sweden and Charles I of England; the young Charles II, exiled in the Netherlands, visited Seghers’s studio in 1649. The polymath Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), Secretary to three Dutch Stadholders, maintained a lively correspondence with Seghers and they swapped poems and recipes for paints. In 1644 Seghers gave Huygens a garland of flowers which decorate a grisaille portrait of Huygens by Jan Cossiers (1600-1671). It has recently been acquired by the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Unusually for his time, at the age of seventy-one Daniel Seghers made an inventory of the 239 paintings that he had made and their destinations, entitled Catalogue van de bloem-stukken, die ik self met mijn hand heb geschildert en voor wie (Catalogue of the still lifes I painted and for whom). Seghers only pupil was Jan Philips van Thielen (1618-1667), but his style was highly influential. Seghers died in Antwerp in 1661.
The work of Daniel Seghers is represented in the Mauritshuis, The Hague; the Vatican Museums, Rome; the Hermitage, St Petersburg; the Prado, Madrid; the Louvre, Paris; the Royal Collection, London; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; the Narodny Galerie, Prague; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA and the Museum of Art, Toledo, OH.
 Published by W Couvreur, ‘Daniel Seghers’ inventaris van door hem geschilderde bloemstukken’ in Gentse Bijdragen tot de Kunstgeschiedenis den de Oudheidkunde, xx, 1967, pp.87-158.