The artist took over his famous father's studio in 1625 when Jan the Elder died unexpectedly. The composition here is borrowed from somewhat more elaborate arrangements by Jan I; the execution pays tribute to him without achieving the same level of refinement. Various insects and fallen flowers support a conventional vanitas theme which is relieved by the butterfly, a symbol of the soul and the Resurrection.
Adelaide Milton de Groot, New York (by 1950–d. 1967)
Hartford, Conn. Wadsworth Atheneum. "The Adelaide Milton de Groot Loan Collection," 1950, no catalogue?
Hartford, Conn. Wadsworth Atheneum. "Flowers: Variations on a Theme," May 13–June 7, 1953, no catalogue.
C. C. C[unningham]. "Flowers: Variations on a Theme." Wadsworth Atheneum Bulletin, 2nd ser., no. 41 (May–September 1953), p. 1, ill.
Klaus Ertz. Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568–1625): die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog. Cologne, 1979, p. 289, fig. 362.
Everett Fahy. Metropolitan Flowers. New York, 1982, pp. 100–101, ill. (color).
Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 23–24; vol. 2, colorpl. III, pl. 13, as by Jan Brueghel the Younger, observing that this "is probably the correct attribution," and that the execution on the whole, while clearly not by Jan the Elder, is close to that of Jan the Younger.
Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke inFlemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 302–3, no. 98, ill. (color).
Old Master Pictures. Christie's, Amsterdam. May 11, 1994, p. 103, under no. 170.
Alte Meister. Dorotheum, Vienna. March 4, 1997, unpaginated, under no. 145.
The picture has been cradled.
The subject comes very close to a few examples of this motif in paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder; Ertz (1979) has been unable to find any work certainly by Jan the Elder that represents such a basket of flowers alone. A very similar motif occurs in Jan the Elder's Allegory of Smell (Prado, Madrid) of which Jan the Younger made at least one copy. Related baskets of flowers are found in a painting by Jan the Elder, of 1617, and especially in one from 1615, both of which include a small basket of flowers to the right (see Liedtke 1984).
A version of the MMA work was sold at Christie's, Amsterdam, on May 11, 1994, lot no. 170, as by Jan the Younger.