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Still life of fruit and a pie on a table

The Royal Collection has a stunning collection of seventeenth century Dutch art

Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

A Bunch of Grapes 1670-75?

RCIN 405506

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Verelst was born in The Hague and was trained, primarily as a flower painter, by his father, Pieter Harmensz. Verelst. He was stated to have been exceedingly vain of his ability and to have gained a considerable reputation by the realism of his pictures. He arrived in London in 1669 and was persuaded, apparently by the Duchess of Portsmouth and the Duke of Buckingham, to paint portraits as well.

The diarist Samuel Pepys said of a flower painting of Verelst's that it was 

the finest thing that ever I think I saw in my life – the drops of Dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced again and again to put my finger to it to feel whether my eyes were deceived or no

Samuel Pepys

Here a simple bunch of grapes hanging from a vine becomes a dramatic exercise in the treatment of light and shade. While the background is plunged into darkness, a bright shaft of light entering from the left picks out the network of veins stretching across the vine leaves and the plump, succulent fruit glistens as if ready to burst. A butterfly perches on a leaf, its right wing shimmering in the intense light.