Van der Ast rarely dated his paintings after 1626 and thus no firm chronology can be established for the work of the last three decades of his career. Fred Meijer feels that this type of flower piece (fairly spaciously composed, with a light background, a grey stone ledge and a few seashells) should probably be dated fairly late in the artist's development, certainly after 1640. Other examples, all undated, include pictures in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, inv. no. 1108 (included in the exhibition Bouquets from the Golden Age, Mauritshuis, 1992, no. 4, illustrated in colour), formerly in the Wetzlar Collection (L. J. Bol, The Bosschaert Dynasty, Leigh-on-Sea, 1960, p. 71, no. 15, included in the exhibition Masters of Middelburg, Kunsthandel Waterman, Amsterdam, March, 1984, pp. 144-5, no. 14, illustrated), and at Sotheby's, London, 7 December 1994, lot 59 (Bol, op. cit., pp. 72-3, no. 23, pl. 38). A more elaborate composition incorporating a bouquet of flowers was at Christie's, New York, 18 May 1994, lot 86 (ibid., p. 85, no. 115).
The pink rose at lower right recurs in several other flower pieces of similar date, including that at Sotheby's, London, 16 April 1980 (ibid., p. 74, no. 31) and that recently with Xavier Scheidwimmer (The European Fine Art Fair, Maastricht, Handbook, 1998, illustrated in colour p. 143). A panel on loan to the National Gallery, London, slightly smaller than the present work (Bol, op. cit., p. 73, no. 26; included in the exhibition Masters of Light: Dutch Painters in Utrecht during the Golden Age, San Francisco, Baltimore and National Gallery, London, 1997-8, pp. 360-3, no. 76, illustrated in colour), includes among several analogous elements a very similar pitcher. Probably of (Delft ?) pottery with a black glaze, this is one of a number of unusual containers featured in the painter's later work. It does not seem to recur in any other work by van der Ast, or indeed in the work of any other artist.
We are grateful to Fred Meijer for his assistance in cataloguing this picture.