David Ryckaert III, who was born into a famous artistic family, remained in Antwerp all his life, although many of his patrons, such as Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, lived in Brussels.
Our painting must date from the period 1650s, when our genre scene painter focussed on a richer, more intellectual clientele.
This Vanitas interior scene makes us reflect upon the transient character of life.
About David Ryckaert III
Antwerp 1612 – 1661 Antwerp
Versatile genre scene painter.
Ryckaert was born into an artistic family :
- his grandfather, David I, was a painter;
- his uncle was the famous landscape painter Maerten Ryckaert;
- his father, David II, who was his teacher, was a landscape painter;
- finally his brother-in-law was Gonzales Coques, who specialized in genre-like portraits.
David Ryckaert III worked during his complete career in his birthplace Antwerp. He was Dean of the Painter's Guild of Antwerp in the year 1652-1653. He was a very successful painter: one of his patrons was Archduke Leopold William, governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1646 until 1656; he owned many of his pictures.
Ryckaert’s artistic development can be followed from 1637 to 1661.
Until 1650 his main subject were rustic peasant scenes, influenced by Adriaen Brouwer and by David Teniers II.
Under the influence of Gonzales Coques and others, from about 1650, Ryckaert increasingly depicted high-life scenes, predominantly musical companies.
Ryckaert died at a relatively young age, not even reaching the age of fifty. He was married and the couple had eight children.
Most of the mayor museums have paintings by David Ryckaert III: the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, the Pitti Museum in Florence, the Prado in Madrid, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Louvre in Paris or Fine Art Museums in Antwerp, Brussels, Berlin and Dresden.
About the subject of our painting
Vanitas still lifes and interior scenes should be considered as meditations on the ephemeral character of life: on the vanity of beauty, knowledge, power, pleasure, music, of life itself. They inspire their viewers to think about life, death and resurrection.
During the 17th century Vanitas paintings were popular subject among intellectuals in the Low Countries, both Catholics in Flanders and Protestants in Holland.
A scholar, represented here under a wall clock, sits at his desk with a globe. He shows us a skull and a book, where one can clearly read the following text: “LEEFTNIE(T) IN RUST”, meaning “do not live resting, unactive”, the clock is ticking. Significantly this rich scholar, who is wearing a coat with a fur collar, has already an advanced age: he is indicating at the inevitability of death.
Bernadette van Haute, author of the 1999 monograph on David Ryckaert III, must never have seen our painting in real. She has relied on a photograph from the 1975 auction at Neumeister in Munich, hence her mistakenly reading the inscription in the book as “LEEFT MEN IN GU(?N)ST, meaning “live in favour”; which she tried to explain as “does one live in harmony””. I can imagine that the inscription must have been barely readable on a small black and white photograph.
The skull represents the seat of thought, and also symbolized spiritual perfection. Death of the physical enabled one to be reborn at a higher level at which the spirit could rule.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because this small, published painting by our well-known painter holds an important lesson; “Vanitas Vanitatum et Omnia Vanitas”: vanity of vanities, all (is) vanity (Vulgate, Ecclesiastes, 1:2).