Daniel Seghers (3 December 1590 – 2 November 1661) was a Flemish Jesuit brother and painter who specialized in flower still lifes. He is particularly well known for his contributions to the genre of "flower garland" painting. His paintings were collected enthusiastically by aristocratic patrons and he had numerous followers and imitators.
Seghers was born in Antwerp. He moved with his mother to the Dutch Republic, probably Utrecht around 1601, following the death of his father Pieter and the conversion of his mother to Calvinism. He possibly started his initial training as an artist in Utrecht. The young artist returned to Antwerp by 1611, where he was enrolled in the Guild of Saint Luke as a pupil of Jan Brueghel the Elder.
After re-converting back to Catholicism, in 1614 he became a novice in the Jesuit order in Mechelen. Seghers is recorded in Brussels in 1621 where he is known to have produced two flower garland paintings for the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. In 1625 Seghers took his final vows as a Jesuit priest. Sources differ regarding his status in the Jesuit order: some claim that he was ordained a priest in 1625, while others argue that he remained a lay brother.
After his ordination in 1625 Seghers left for Rome where he stayed for two years. He returned to his native city in 1627 where he continued to work as a painter for the remainder of this life.
It is not easy to establish a chronology for Seghers' paintings since he only dated his works in the period 1635-1651. Possibly there was a stylistic development in his flower garlands in that he went from the initial almost uniform garlands towards garlands composed of three or four groups of flowers. Like his master Breughel, Seghers used flowers and plants that grew in his home country and in particular cultivated garden flowers.
A majority of Seghers' work is in a distinctively Flemish genre, which is referred to as 'garland paintings'. Garland paintings are a special type of still life developed in Antwerp by Seghers' master Jan Brueghel the Elder in collaboration with the Italian cardinal Federico Borromeo at the beginning of the 17th century. Other artists involved in the early development of the genre included Hendrick van Balen, Andries Daniels, Peter Paul Rubens and Seghers himself. The genre was initially connected to the visual imagery of the Counter-Reformation movement. It was further inspired by the cult of veneration and devotion to Mary prevalent at the Habsburg court (then the rulers over the Southern Netherlands) and in Antwerp generally. Garland paintings typically show a flower garland around a devotional image, portrait or other religious symbol (such as the host). By the second half of the century secular themes such as portraits and mythological subjects also decorated the central part of the many paintings made in this fashion. Seghers distinguished himself from his teacher Brueghel by including cartouches as framing elements.
Garland paintings were usually collaborations between a still life and a figure painter. Seghers himself generally only painted the flowers—frequently locally-grown roses and tulips that are just about to bloom—and the central subject was filled in later by another artist. This spirit of artistic collaboration, which was seen in the earliest flower garland paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, is, in fact, a notable quality of Flemish painting in 17th-century Antwerp.
Many of Seghers collaborators were anonymous local artists and there is often uncertainty or disagreement about the identity of collaborators on specific artworks. It is known he often worked with Cornelis Schut, Erasmus Quellinus II, Abraham van Diepenbeek, Simon de Vos, Jan van den Hoecke, Gonzales Coques and Rubens. Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert is mentioned as his assistant.
Daniel Seghers' art was widely admired during his lifetime, generating great interest from collectors and his style was continued and followed by others such as his pupil Jan Philips van Thielen. His work influenced artists such as Jan Davidsz. de Heem in Antwerp and Juan de Arellano in Madrid.
His paintings were highly prized and collected at the court of Frederik Hendrik in the Hague. There, the art collector and secretary to the prince Constantijn Huygens praised the paintings in poetry and corresponded numerous times with the artist, writing that one could almost smell the flowers. The Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel also wrote highly of Seghers' paintings. Other collectors included Christina of Sweden, Charles I, Philip IV of Spain, Maria de' Medici and Charles II, who visited the artist in 1649, and Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria.
His paintings were usually not sold through traditional contacts such as art dealers, but were instead presented as gifts by the Jesuit order to those, including members of the nobility, who were providing funds for the running of their schools.
- Irene Haberland, "Seghers, Daniel," Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, [accessed 15 February 2015].
- John Rupert Martin, "A Portrait of Rubens by Daniel Seghers," Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, vol. 17 (1958), pp. 2-20.
- SEGHERS, Daniel (1590 - 1661), Painter in Benezit Dictionary of Artists
- Daniël Seghers at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
- David Freedberg, "The Origins and Rise of the Flemish Madonnas in Flower Garlands, Decoration and Devotion", Münchener Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, xxxii, 1981, pp. 115–150.
- Susan Merriam, Seventeenth-Century Flemish Garland Paintings. Still Life, Vision and the Devotional Image, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2012
- Anne T. Woollett, Ariane van Suchtelen, et al., Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship, Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006. ISBN 978-0-89236-847-1
- For instance, the RKD rejects the attribution to Simon de Vos of the cartouche in the painting The Holy Family in a Flower Garland at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and attributes it to Erasmus Quellinus II
- Cataloge van de Bloem-stukken, die ik selfs met mijn hand heb geschildert en voor wie. «Cateloque of flower-still lifes, which I have painted and for whom»
- Richard E. Spear, "Domenichino Addenda," The Burlington Magazine, vol. 131 (Jan. 1989), p. 15, n. 67.
- Langdon, Anthony. "Seghers, Daniel." The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 15 February 2015.
- Huygens praise of Seghers' painted flowers (in Latin), IN PRAESTANTISSIMI PICTORIS DAN. SEGHERI ROSAS.
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