Mid-17th century mother-of-pearl inlaid flower picture in the manner of Dirck van Rijswijck, £17,500 at Dore & Rees.

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The third tranche of material from the Somerset dealer-collector-hoarder offered by Dore & Rees in Frome on March 26 included a notable work of art from the Dutch Golden Age.

It was somewhat overlooked at the cataloguing stage (the estimate was just £70-100) but knowledgeable bidders identified it as a mid-17th century mother-of-pearl inlaid flower picture in the manner of Dirck van Rijswijck (1596-1679). It sold to an online bidder via at £17,500 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).

Apparently trained as a goldsmith and a medallist, van Rijswijck was a master of inlaying mother-of-pearl into ebony or black marble. His work was particularly admired for its extraordinary naturalism, exploiting the different colours and shades of shell nacre to create depictions of spring and summer flowers and insects.

His work was the perfect amalgam of a homegrown artistic style and the exotic materials and works of art that were available in the entrepôt of 17th century Amsterdam. While the compositions follow the style of the early Dutch still-life painters, the technique achieves a similar result to ‘Namban’ lacquer wares from Japan and the inlaid hardstone pietra dura work popular in Florence.

The activities of the Dutch East India Company had transformed shell collecting. By the 17th century, and the emergence of conchylomania, shells were being proudly displayed in Dutch still-life paintings and cabinets of curiosities alongside precious works of art.

Van Rijswijck’s large-scale pieces were truly spectacular. In 1660 the celebrated Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) wrote an ode to the octagonal marble tabletop that van Rijswijck kept in his workshop as a visitor attraction. It is now in the Rijksmuseum.

However, smaller panels – Withers’ example measured 14 x 12in (35 x 29cm) in its black japanned frame – were his stock in trade. Around 50 are known (one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is signed) with this one seemingly part of a group of inlaid into an ebony (rather than black marble) ground that can be dated to the 1650s.