“Still Life with a Roemer on a silver gilt cup-holder with grapes and two butterflies on a draped table”
The present painting shows three different signatures:’Guill[er]mo van Aelst’, the little stick figure of his alias (a scarecrow) and the earlier signature ‘W. van Aelst’ . In general the artist signed with a capital ‘W’ until 1660, and with ‘Guill.mo’ afterwards. The present painting appears to be the first example in which the italianised signature is used. (F. Meijer, RKD).
During his stays in France and Italy, Van Aelst was strongly influenced by French and Italian artists. In Italy he was active in Florence. Although there is no record of him ever staying in Rome and being a member of the ‘Bentveughels’, a group of Dutch painters in Rome, the use of the name Guill(er)mo points to his close association with painters that were.
This assumption is supported by the fact that Van Aelst adopts an alias (in his case in the form of a stick figure, probably a scarecrow).
Mr F. Meijer mentions one other piece (RKD images 9552) that has the same combination of three signatures . The stick figure can also be found in a painting with dead poultry dated 1658 (inv. no. A 1669), in the collection of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.
Van Aelst was an innovative artist in Holland, breaking with the rule of symmetry and introducing strong diagonals in his compositions, a feature that would have many followers.
He was first active in Delft, and from 1645 to 1649 in France. From 1649 to 1656 he worked in Florence as court painter to Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. He returned to the Netherlands in 1656, settling in Amsterdam.
Van Aelst demonstrates great technical skill and subtlety. His palette is cooler and the texture of his paintings is smoother than we see with most of his colleagues in Holland.
He was influenced by Jan Davidsz. de Heem and Balthasar van der Ast.
Maria van Oosterwijck, Rachel Ruysch and Ernst Stuven were all pupils of his.
A Dutch private collection since the 1930s, thence by descent.