The importance of the painting
This painting is one of Rufford's greatest treasures, particularly as we know that it was acquired by the Hesketh family during their residence at Rufford Old Hall. Although we don’t know a great deal about how or why the Hesketh’s acquired it, it is undoubtably a fascinating and dramatic piece of artwork which gives us a glimpse into the tastes and collecting style of the family during the early 20th century.
The earliest definitive recording of the painting is based on a feature of Rufford Old Hall in the 1929 Country Life October edition. The photograph of the dining room shows the painting, ‘An Extensive Landscape with Exotic Flowers, Fruit and Vegetables, a Goat and a 'Noli me tangere' in the Garden beyond’ hanging on the west wall.
The painting is one of Gommaert van der Gracht’s finest and most documented works. Little is known about the artistic career of Gommaert van der Gracht, other than that he trained under Michiel Coxie the Younger (son of Michiel Coxie, one of the leading Flemish Renaissance painters). Gracht was one of the Flemish Baroque painters influenced by the works of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck.
As an artist he specialised in landscapes and still lifes and often combined the two, setting a still life scene within a landscape painting. His still lifes include market and kitchen scenes as well as fruit and game works. There are very few paintings by his hand known to exist although his oeuvre has expanded during recent years through new attributions.