A still life of roses, tulips, anemones, narcissi, harebells, aquilegia, a sunflower, lily-of-the-valley and forget-me-nots in a glass vase on a stone table, with a Large Tortoiseshell and a Red Admiral butterfly and a grasshopper
Oil on panel: 20.7(h) x 13.5(w) in /
52.7(h) x 34.3(w) cm
Signed and dated lower left: Ottmar. Elliger. Fecit. 1667
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OTTMAR ELLIGER THE ELDER
Gothenburg 1633 – 1679 Berlin
A still life of roses, tulips, anemones, narcissi, harebells, aquilegia, a sunflower, lily-of-the-valley and forget-me-nots in a glass vase on a stone table, with a Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) and a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterfly and a grasshopper
Signed and dated lower left: Ottmar. Elliger. Fecit. 1667.
Oil on panel: 20 ¾ x 13 ½ in / 52.7 x 34.3 cm
Frame size: 28 ¼ x 21 ¼ in / 71.8 x 54 cm
Duits Limited, London
Private collection, Germany
Ottmar Elliger the Elder was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, the son of a doctor. The Dutch painter and author Arnold Houbraken reported in 1718 – perhaps erroneously – that Elliger had been a pupil of Daniel Seghers in Antwerp, but his earliest works show particular influence of the Dutch/German still-life painter Jacob Marrel, who was working in Frankfurt at that time. Elliger probably worked in Copenhagen for a few years during the mid-1650s, later moving to Amsterdam, where in 1660 he married the sister of a fellow still-life painter, Jacob van Walscapelle. Their son, Ottmar Elliger the Younger, also became a painter and specialised in history and genre scenes. In 1666 Elliger was living in Hamburg, and in 1670, at the same time as the Dutch painter Willem Fredericksz. van Royen, he was appointed court painter to the Elector of Brandenburg in Berlin, where he died nine years later. Ottmar Elliger the Elder produced portraits and still lifes, predominantly of flowers and fruit. Dated works by Elliger are known from 1653 to 1678.
This painting, signed and dated 1667, was made when Elliger was living in Germany. Its crisp, delicate handling, with an emphasis on draughtsmanship and the full presentation of each flower without too much overlapping, reflects German taste. Elliger constructs his bouquet around strongly-lit, showy, circular blooms in white or warm colours, such as the roses, tulips and sunflower. The bouquet is given variety and a sense of depth by the addition of smaller, more delicate flowers in predominantly blue hues: the forget-me-nots, harebells and aquilegia. Elliger favours a rather tall and slender oval bouquet: a similar composition can be seen in a Still life of flowers signed and dated 1673 in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Elliger has a fondness for showing the intricate underside of flowers, for example the beautifully painted white rose at bottom left, with its brilliant observation of the relationship between the while petals and the green calyx. A similar rose appears in A still life with roses in a garland of fruit, signed and dated 1666, in the Schleswig-Hollsteinisches Landesmuseum at Schloss Gottorf. The Schloss Gottorf painting pairs this inverted bloom with a lavish pink rose which echoes that in the bottom right of the present bouquet, although without the intervening flowers. The juxtaposition must have pleased Elliger greatly, as he used it in a simple Still life of roses on a ledge, signed and dated 1662 (Göteborgs Konstmuseum, Gothenburg) and in a Still life of flowers, c.1666-7, in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Fred Meijer points out that the juxtaposition may have been inspired by a striking Still life of roses on a ledge by Pieter van de Venne, painted in 1656.
A Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) perches on the stone table at the bottom of the painting, providing a splash of colour against the monochromes of the table. Fred Meijer notes that this butterfly occurs in the same pose in several dated paintings of 1666 and 1667 and ‘can be considered a signature feature’ of this period of Elliger’s career. To the left, a grasshopper munches upon a forget-me-not flower. If the grasshopper has connotations of Vanitas, Nature’s endless cycle of creation and destruction, the butterfly symbolises Resurrection and the passage of the Christian soul into eternal life.
 RKD images 7369. PJJ van Thiel, All the Paintings of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1976, p.219.
 Oil on canvas 46 x 36 ½ in / 117 x 93 cm. See Fred G Meijer, The Collection of Dutch and Flemish Still-life Paintings Bequeathed by Daisy Linda Ward, Zwolle 2003, pp.202-203, illus.
 Oil on panel 13 x 10 in / 33 x 25.5 cm; illus. Meijer 2003, p.203.
 Oil on panel 14 ½ x 12 ¼ in / 37 x 31 in. The Daisy Linda Ward Collection, A 549. Meijer 2003, op. cit., p.202-203.
 Meijer ibid., p.203.
 Ibid., p.202. Meijer dates the undated Ashmolean Still life to this period because of the butterfly and roses.