Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Still Life with Cherries

Photo: Susan Cole

Still Life with Cherries


Balthasar van der Ast

Dutch, 1593/94 - 1657

Balthasar van der Ast was a force in the artists' community that thrived in Utrecht in the Netherlands during the 17th century. Specializing in crisply illusionistic still lifes of flowers and fruit embellished with butterflies, snails, and other fauna, van der Ast pioneered the still-life genre and laid the foundation for its popularity during the Dutch Golden Age.

This painting—van der Ast's earliest known work to date—is an exquisite example of the artist's prodigious mastery of the still life. A blue-and-white Ming-dynasty porcelain bowl overflows with three varieties of juicy red cherries, balanced by an apricot and two ripe peaches. A caterpillar, grasshopper, snail, damselfly, and butterfly enliven the scene as they flitter and crawl across the fruit dish and the stone ledge upon which it rests, while a halo of sprigs encircles it in a harmonizing frame. The supple fresh fruit bursts with life against the inert, unpliable porcelain that holds it, inviting contemplation of the magnificence and transience of nature and demonstrating van der Ast's exacting naturalism.
Oil on wood panel
22 x 25 1/2 in. (55.9 x 64.8 cm)
Gift of Theiline Scheumann's children, including Jeff and Korynne Wright, in honor of their mother
Provenance: Private collection, Sweden; [Christie’s, London, Anonymous sale (“The Property of a Lady”), Apr. 9, 1990, lot no. 6]; purchased at auction jointly by [Johnny van Haeften, London, England] and [Richard Green, London, England]; sold, via [Johnny van Haeften, London, England] to Phoebe Cowles, San Francisco, California, 1991; sold to Theilene Scheumann (1931-2022), Seattle, Washington, after 2000; Grousemont Foundation, Seattle, Washington, 2022; to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 2023
Photo: Susan Cole
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, SAM at 75: Building a Collection for Seattle, May 5 - Sept. 9, 2007.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle, Feb. 14 - May 19, 2013.

Published ReferencesSegal, Samuel. “An Early Fruit Piece by Balthasar van der Ast.” Still Life Studies. Amsterdam, 1990; reproduced.

Roelofsz, Charles, ed. A painting of 1617 by Balthasar van der Ast: a guild masterpiece? Amsterdam: Kunsthandel Charles Roelofsz, 2002; p. 9, reproduced fig. VIII.

Ishikawa, Chiyo, ed. A Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2008; pp. 18-19, reproduced pl. 1.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM