The Mauritshuis, supported by the BankGiro Loterij and H.B. van der Ven, has bought a flower cartouche by the Antwerp artist Daniël Seghers (1590-1661). Central to the painting is a portrait bust of poet, diplomat and scholar Constantijn Huygens. Since 1828 whereabouts of the painting had not been know but recently it came to light in a private collection. Following its restoration, the painting can now be viewed in the museum.
Emilie Gordenker, director of the Mauritshuis said, “The history of this painting makes this a dream acquisition for us. For several reasons it is closely linked to the Mauritshuis and the work is also excellent in quality.”
The portrait of Huygens, is a painting with a story. Huygens was given the work by the artist himself. As secretary to three consecutive stadholders, Huygens played an essential role in the formation of the stadholder art collection in The Hague. He maintained friendly contact with Seghers. For years, even until well after the death of Huygens, this painting hung with another donated work (Flower Cartouche around a bust of King-Stadholder William III) in the so-called Huygens House near the Mauritshuis at the Plein in The Hague.
In 1828 the painting was bought at auction by Johan Steengracht of Oostcapelle (1782-1846), the first director of the Mauritshuis. He not only collected paintings for the museum, but also for his own collection. In the twentieth century, the residence of the painting was then unknown for a long time. The Mauritshuis was already in possession of two works by Seghers, including Bloemencartouche around a bust of King Stadholder Willem III; one of the two flower cartouches donated by the painter to Huygens. The other work was long considered lost, until it recently appeared in a private collection and the Mauritshuis managed to identify work based on sources. The acquisition is painted on a large, fragile copper plate. The painting has been restored in the Mauritshuis’s studio, including the removal of old varnish layers. The color splendor of the flowers is much better to see after the restoration.
Seghers specialized in floral still lifes combined with a religious representation, a sacred or a portrait, so-called floral cartouches. The new acquisition is painted on a large copper plate and is a good example of the work of Seghers. In a stone niche – decorated with architectural decorations and shell motifs – is a carved portrait bust. The representations painted in shades of gray (grisaille) in the heart of Seghers’ cartouches were always executed by other Flemish painters.