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Otto Marseus van Schrieck (Holland 1619-1678)

Called ”De Snuffelaer”

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 14 – 18 June 2022

Lot 614 Otto Marseus van Schrieck (Holland 1619-1678). Called ”De Snuffelaer”. A sottobosco: a snake watching a lizard chasing a moth by a thistle at the foot of a tree, butterflies nearby, a mountainous river landscape beyond. Signed and dated Otho Marseus 75. Oil on relined canvas, 58 x 45.5 cm.

The authenticity has kindly been confirmed by Fred Meijer on the basis of a high resolution digital photo.


100.000 – 150.000 SEK
€ 10.000 – 14.000


Sir George Chetwynd (1849-1917), 4th Baronet of Brocton Hall, Staffordshire.
Christie’s, London, 24 February 1912, lot 25, as O. Marcellis, herbage and insects.
The collection of art dealer Gösta Stenman (1888-1947), Stockholm, inv. no. 1003.
Bukowskis, Stockholm, 10-13 November 1965, lot 211 (illustrated pl. 36).


Susanna Steensma, Otto Marseus Van Schrieck, Leben und Werk, 1999, p. 163, no. B2.13, illustrated pl. 144, p. 351 (unaware of signature and date).

In context

A sottobosco of the universe of the flora and fauna by Marseus van Schrieck, called “de Snuffelaer”

Lost from sight since the Bukowski sale in 1965 and thus so far only known through a photograph, Susanne Steensma included the present painting in her catalogue raisonné of the artist’s oeuvre of 1999 without classification. However, the recent reappearance from a Swedish private collection confirms that this is a fully authentic, fine and wellpreserved late work by the artist and thus a new addition to the oeuvre. 

The painting shows Marseus most favourite pictorial motifs of the snake and the lizard, although smaller than in his earlier paintings. The attention is now more on the flora. This is characteristic for the paintings dating from the 1670s and is also seen in the painting of the same year, now in the Landesmuseum, Hannover (Steensma, op. cit., no. B1.96) and in that in the Staatliches Museum, Schwerin (Steensma, op. cit., cat. no. B1.102). 

The so called sottobosco, of which the present painting is an excellent example, was introduced as a pictorial genre by Otto Marseus van Schrieck in 1655 and merges the genres of still life with landscape and art with science. By 1655 Marseus was living in Rome. He had arrived there via France in 1652 and was taken up by the so called Bentveugels under the nickname “de Snuffelaer”. Indeed, as Houbraken records, Marseus “sniffed at all sorts of snakes, lizards, caterpillars, spiders and other insects” which he cultivated in a garden. The sottobosco genre immediately became a huge success as it appealed to prestigious collectors such as Cardinal Leopold de Medici. The largest collection of works by Marseus is still in the Uffizi. 

By 1663 Marseus had returned to Amsterdam, where he owned a house on the Nieuwe Prinsengracht as much as an estate called Waterrijck, situated outside the Muiderpoort, probably in Diemen. Here he created an even larger universe of flora and fauna as in Rome, which was visited by Balthasar de Monconys in 1663 and by Cosimo de Medici in 1667. Sadly in 1672 Waterrijck was inundated as a defense against the French troops. 

In his sottobosco paintings, Marseus not only introduced new motifs, but also new techniques. One of these new techniques was the counterproof of butterflies, by which dried species were imprinted on the painted surface. The remains of this technique can be seen in the butterfly now shown white, as here the natural colors of the imprint evidently faded over time.

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Fredrik Fellbom


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