'The earliest individual still life of flowers in a basket in oils.'
This charming still life by Ludger tom Ring the Younger belongs to the small group of very early individual flower still lifes through which the artist must be credited as a pioneer for the subject. It can be considered as the earliest individual still life of flowers in a basket in oils. Ludger tom Ring’s floral compositions were painted several decades before such artists as Jan Brueghel the Elder and Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder started to popularize the subject in the early seventeenth century.
In 2003, Dr. Sam Segal studied this previously anonymous painting extensively in the context of the oeuvre of the German painter Ludger tom Ring the Younger and correctly concluded that it can be attributed to that artist (report in Segal’s archive at the RKD Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague).
In 1562, Ludger tom Ring painted a large kitchen interior, which was in the collection of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin, but which was lost in World War II. That painting included a basket of flowers, visible in front of the lady to the right (fig. 1). It is highly similar to the basket in the painting on offer here, but the perspective is somewhat different – it is seen from a higher viewpoint. In an album of nature studies in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek some studies in oil on paper by Ludger tom Ring have been preserved, some of which were clearly made in preparation for the kitchen interior formerly in Berlin. The album once belonged to Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) in Prague. The group of studies in this album in Vienna includes one of a basket of flowers, of a similar size as this panel and completely matching its composition (fig. 2). Although somewhat different in execution – which undoubtedly is due to the support – the version on panel can be considered as a work by Ludger tom Ring himself, based upon the study on paper. This allows dating the origin of this panel of a basket of flowers in or shortly after 1562. Perhaps it was done for a patron who saw the study on paper and asked for a version on panel that could be displayed on the wall. From the years 1562 to 1565 several still lifes of flowers by tom Ring are known, among others in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, in a private collection (previously Weldon Collection, sold Sotheby’s, New York, 22 April 2015, lot 60) and in the Museum für Kunst und Kultur in Münster. These are very similar in atmosphere to this work. Moreover, the treatment of several of the flowers and particularly that of the green leaves, such as the box and pink leaves in front and to the right of the basket, with their light edges, is highly similar to that in the various bouquets in vases. The way the basket itself is partly outlined with a dark contour is also similar to the way the vases have been depicted, particularly those in the Mauritshuis and in a private collection.
Thus, this painting is a most exciting addition to the few known forerunners of seventeenth-century floral still-life painting.
Dr. Fred G. Meijer