Jacob van Hulsdonck drew much of his artistic inspiration from Jan Breughel the Elder (1568–1625) in Antwerp and Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573–1621) in Middelburg, yet he painted with a clarity of form and composition quite different from either of these masters. This small and exquisite painting, executed on copper, captures the very best qualities of Van Hulsdonck's work. Set atop a plain wooden table, a beautifully articulated Wan-Li bowl is filled with wild strawberries and adorned by a single carnation, dramatically silhouetted against a dark background. This unexpected element adds tension to the visually simple yet luscious composition. The cherries, red and white currants, and random water droplets arrayed on the table form a pattern of circles that echo the round forms of the strawberries and the bowl. The droplets reinforce the still life's sense of fleeting freshness, and the transience of the moment is heightened by the presence of the delicate butterfly that has just alighted on a leaf and by the fly feasting on a berry. Though simple in its composition, this striking image captures the viewer's attention with its bold color contrasts and delicacy of execution.
This work beautifully complements the other early 17th-century still lifes in the Dutch cabinet galleries, particularly the fruit and flower pendants by Balthasar van der Ast (1593/1594–1657), an artist greatly influenced by Hulsdonck's paintings.
lower left, IVH in ligature: IVHVLSDONCK. FE
(Leonard Koetser, London), in 1963. private collection, "the property of a lady"; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 25 November 1966, no. 44); (Leonard Koetser, London), until at least 1967. (Newhouse Galleries, New York); purchased 1974 by Robert H. Smith [1928-2009], Bethesda, Maryland; sold 1978 to (Essoldo Fine Arts Ltd., London). (Galerie Julie Kraus, Paris). private collection, Germany, in 1983. (Charles Roelofsz, Amsterdam), in 1994. (Bob P. Haboldt & Co., New York), in 1995. private collection; (sale, Sotheby's, London, 14 December 2000, no. 15); private collection, Germany; (sale, Sotheby's, London, 8 July 2009, no. 12); private collection, "property from a deceased's estate"; (sale, Sotheby's, London, 5 December 2012, no. 32); purchased by NGA with donated funds.
- Autumn Exhibition, Leonard Koetser, London, 1963.
- Spring Exhibition, Leonard Koetser, London, 1967, no. 3, repro.
- A Fruitful Past: A Survey of the Fruit Still Lifes of the Northern and Southern Netherlands from Brueghel till Van Gogh, Gallery P. de Boer, Amsterdam; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, 1983, no. 27, repro.
- Flowers and Nature: Netherlandish Flower Painting of Four Centuries, Nabio Museum of Art, Osaka; Tokyo Station Gallery; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1990, no. 31, repro.
- Fifty Paintings by Old Masters, Bob P. Haboldt & Co., New York, 1995, no. 28, repro.
- Crombie, Theodore. "Autumn Offerings: Mr. Leonard Koetser." Apollo 78, no. 20 (October 1963): 305, fig. 6.
- Christie, Manson & Woods. Christie's Review of the Year, October 1966 - July 1967. London, 1967: 30, repro.
- "The Leonard Koetser Spring Exhibition." The Connoisseur 164, no. 662 (April 1967): 253, fig. 3, as by Jacob van Hubdonck.
- Segal, Sam. Flowers and Nature: Netherlandish Flower Painting of Four Centuries. Exh. cat. Nabio Museum of Art, Osaka; Tokyo Station Gallery; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Amstelveen and The Hague, 1990: 184-185, no. 31, repro.