Balthasar van der Ast (* 1593 in Middelburg, Netherlands; † 7 March 1657 in Delft) was a Dutch painter of still lifes. When his father Hans died a wealthy widower in 1609, Balthasar van der Ast went to live with his elder sister Maria, who was married to the flower painter Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621). Bosschaert's influence can be clearly felt in van der Ast's early works.
From 1619 at the latest, he lived in Utrecht, where he was admitted to the Guild of St Luke. It is assumed that Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606-1683/1684) was his pupil.
From 1632 Balthasar van der Ast lived in Delft and married Margrieta Jans van Bueren there in 1633. The couple had two daughters named Maria and Helena.
He died in Delft in December 1657 and was buried there in the Oude Kerk, the "old church".
In his painting, Balthasar van der Ast specialised above all in the depiction of flowers, fruits and snail shells, which he depicted in mostly small-format pictures. His pictorial compositions are often enlivened by insects, sometimes also by lizards.
He painted the Chinese bowls, which were much sought-after in his time and came into the possession of wealthy Dutchmen due to the flourishing trade with East Asia, with great care and attention to detail.
The insects, the beetles, the flies and other small creatures partly have a symbolic function. The delicate butterfly, for example, indicates the rapid perishability of the blossoms, while other insects are supposed to refer to the perishable nature of the fruit. In his flower paintings, van der Ast did not always adhere to the seasons: On several occasions, for example, he depicted flowers together in one picture that did not blossom at the same time.
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63 | Flowers, shells and insects on a stone ledge (Blumen, Muscheln und Insekten auf einem Steingesims), c. 1635
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