Still-life catalogued as ‘attributed to Rachel Ruysch’, £120,000 at Lyon & Turnbull.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Depicting cherries, grapes and pears (plus a fly having landed on one of the pieces of fruit), it was previously held by London dealer Leonard Koetser in the early 1960s and had since entered a private Scottish collection from where it had descended to the vendor.

The 13½ x 12¼in (35 x 31cm) oil on canvas bore an indistinct signature which appeared to be that of Dutch painter Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750). A plaque on the front of the frame and the Koetser label on the back carried the same attribution.

Ruysch specialised in still-life painting and became the first female member of the artist’s society in The Hague, Confrerie Pictura. An early starter, she was introduced to the secrets of botany and the art of painting at a very young age by her father, an anatomy professor and botanist in Amsterdam.

Aged 15, she began her formal training with the still-life painter Willem van Aelst. This marked the start of a successful career; her floral still-lifes became highly sought after and could cost as much as 500 guilders, a remarkable sum at the time.

The simple composition with a dark background here was reminiscent of van Aelst’s own work which suggested it may have been a relatively early example by Ruysch. She would later produce some more elaborate flower paintings such as a painting of roses, tulips, a sunflower and other flowers that made a record £1.4m at Sotheby’s in July 2013.

The estimate and cataloguing at the L&T sale on November 15 was kept relatively cautious largely because the work does not appear in the artist’s catalogue raisonné. Offered as ‘attributed to Rachel Ruysch’, it nevertheless drew strong competition and was eventually knocked down at £120,000.