Our still life is one of only seven flower pieces by Dirck. All of them are dated, as is the
case with many paintings and drawings by members of the De Braij family; the habit
was initiated by Salomon who even dated his drawings with the full date, even to the
day. Dirck’s other flower still pieces were painted in the 1670s and 1680s. No less than
three flower still lifes are preserved from 1671, one of which is in the Los Angeles
County Museum. Two others, both in private collections, sport a similar marble ledge as
our painting. Dirck’s professional life as an artist stopped in around 1680 when he
joined the Gaesdonck Monastery just over the Dutch-German border; he took his vows
on 12 October 1681 as a lay brother. From this final episode of his life only one
mediocre still life has been preserved.
Just like Joseph’s flower still lifes, those by Dirck are unconventional. Other Dutch or
Flemish flower painters selected species of flowers that bloom in different seasons and incorporated them into carefully balanced compositions. Meijer thinks that Joseph and
Dirck drew flowers from life and then painted them, although no preparatory drawing
has come to light yet. Given his loose handling it is still possible that Dirck painted
quickly enough to portray flowers from life directly in oil. In addition, to field
bindweed, we see white autumn crocus (colchicum autumnale) and sunflower, all of
which bloom late in summer so the painting could have been executed in September.
Dirck’s still lifes also stand out because of their seemingly haphazard arrangement. In
this they resemble nineteenth-century French still life painters such as Philippe
Rousseau (1816-87) and Antoine Vollon (1833-1900), or even Edouard Manet (1832-
83). Obviously, these artists were unaware of Dirck’s extremely rare still lifes which
were only rediscovered in more recent times. At present, Dirck’s talents are fully
acknowledged. In his review, published in The Burlington Magazine, of the exhibition
on the De Braij family in Haarlem and London the noted scholar and connoisseur Albert
Blankert calls them ‘among the best and most original in seventeenth-century Dutch
painting’. The Mauritshuis purchased a flower still life by his hand in 2012.
R. Gibson, Flower Painting, Oxford 1976, p. 9, reproduced fig. 15
F.G. Meijer, “Joseph and Dirck de Bray, Painters of still lifes,” in P. Biesboer (ed.),
Painting family: the De Brays, masters of 17th-century Holland, exh. cat. Haarlem
(Frans Hals Museum); London (Dulwich Picture Gallery), 2008, p. 31, reproduced fig.
27 (as Dirck de Bray [and Joseph de Bray?])
E. Gordenker, ‘‘Still life of a bouquet in the making’ by Dirck de Bray: a new
acquisition at the Mauritshuis, The Hague’, Burlington Magazine 154 (2012), p. 102