Flowers and Insects

CC0

Artist / maker

Jan Davidsz. de Heem (painter)

Period

17 century
Vibrant still life Roses, tulips, gentian, anemones, marigolds, poppies, cumin, ivy, a cob of corn, ears of wheat and, in the upper left, a sprig of ripe cherries. All accompanied by a grasshopper, red admiral and cabbage white butterflies, a caterpillar, a spider and other insects, including ants crawling out of the white rose. Plenty of diversity in this still…
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Vibrant still life Roses, tulips, gentian, anemones, marigolds, poppies, cumin, ivy, a cob of corn, ears of wheat and, in the upper left, a sprig of ripe cherries. All accompanied by a grasshopper, red admiral and cabbage white butterflies, a caterpillar, a spider and other insects, including ants crawling out of the white rose. Plenty of diversity in this still life, which positively bursts with vitality. De Heem painted the garland with a strong feel for refined colours, a subtle play of light and a powerful three-dimensional effect. Flowers wilt, so are these intended as a symbol of transience and our short human lives? This is certainly the case in many seventeenth-century still lifes, especially where the flowers are accompanied by a skull, an hourglass or a snuffed-out candle… and might the evergreen ivy be a reference to eternal life and the cob of corn to Christ’s resurrection from the dead, making them religious symbols? There is nothing to suggest that here, but we do know that seventeenth-century viewers would have been widely familiar with such symbolism. On the other hand, they considered skilfully painted floral arrangements to be beautiful in themselves, just as we do today. Recent examination using the latest techniques tells us that De Heem planned his composition meticulously, beginning with a red ground layer followed by a layer of grey. He then used green paint to indicate the volume of the garland and set out the most important flowers with expanses of a single colour, such as red fort he red blooms. Once the paint had dried, the detailed work could begin. De Heem used a copper-based pigment fort he green tones and a mecury-based vermillion for the red flowers and cherries.
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Vlaamse Kunstcollectie - EN

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