Rachel Ruysch was a one of the greatest still life painters of her era. As a child, she was encouraged by her father, Frederik Ruysch, an eminent professor of anatomy and botany. By helping to catalog and record his collection of rare natural history specimens, she developed her powers of observation. At fifteen, she apprenticed to Willem van Aelst, who instructed her in flower arrangement as well as painting technique. By the time she was eighteen she had begun to produce and sell independently signed works. Her flower paintings are characterized by their playful compositions, brilliant colors, and monastic attention to detail.
In spite of having married and borne ten children, she enjoyed an illustrious career spanning seven decades, including eight years as court painter to Johann Wilhelm II, Elector Palatine. During her lifetime, she was hailed as “Holland’s art prodigy” and “our subtle art heroine.” She produced more then 250 paintings, which commanded sums as high as 750-1,200 guilders. By contrast, Rembrandt’s paintings rarely sold for more than 500 guilders. Due to her long and successful career, she became the best documented woman painter of the Dutch Golden Age.