1644 - 1721
Still Life of a Poppy, Iris and Peonies in a Glass Vase

Oil on canvas
Image size: 23 1/4 x 19 1/2 inches (59 x 50 cm)
Dutch Ripple frame

Here a glass vase containing an exuberant display of flowers stands on a ledge. With only one known exception, Verelst included vases in all of his flower paintings.

The asymmetrical arrangement of the flowers fills most of the canvas and the vibrant bouquet contains peonies, an iris and a poppy set amidst a perfusion of twisting leaves and stems. Poppies were one of Verelst’s favourite flowers and were commonly featured in his still lifes.

This painting shows a superb understanding of light and colour that is consistent with Verelst’s other works. Indeed, the strong contrast between the brightly lit, the colourful blossoms and the surrounding darkness lends to the flowers and foliage a hyper realistic quality and a strong sense of three-dimensionality.

The Artist

Verelst was born in The Hague in 1644 and came from a family of painters. His brothers Johannes and Herman also became painters and, like Simon, were trained by their father.

In 1663 Simon became a member of the Confrérie Pictura, the painter’s association in The Hague, and soon afterwards moved to nearby Vooburg with his brother Herman, who also painted flowers. In 1668 Simon he moved to London where the Duke of Buckingham became his principle patron and on 11 April 1669 he met with Samuel Pepys. He was enormously successful in London and his elegant portraits became popular for a time during the 1670s among court circles. He painted this portrait of Prince Rupert, son of Frederick V, Count Palatine and Elizabeth Stuart. King Charles II owned six of his paintings.

It seems Verelst began to suffer from bouts of insanity, which was reflected in a portrait with flowers on a gigantic scale, who called himself “the God of Flowers“. There is evidence to suggest that these delusions of grandeur were brought on by bouts of psychosis, or some form of other mental illness. In 1709, according to Weyerman, he lived down the Strand, London at the art dealer William Lovejoy, who had him locked up for his bouts of unbridled aggression.