National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Still Life with Fruit, Fish, and a Nest Abraham Mignon (artist)
German, 1640 - 1679
Still Life with Fruit, Fish, and a Nest, c. 1675
oil on canvas
overall: 94 x 73.5 cm (37 x 28 15/16 in.) framed: 117.5 x 98.4 x 5.1 cm (46 1/4 x 38 3/4 x 2 in.)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. John Heinz III
1989.23.1
On View
From the Tour: Dutch Still Lifes and Landscapes of the 1600s
Object 7 of 8

Many Dutch still-life painters silhouetted their carefully arranged foreground objects against neutral, blank backgrounds. Similarly, the forest backdrop here is so dark it nearly conceals a stone archway. The abundance of the sea and the land is suggested by the fishing rod, bait box, and catch of fish that surround a wicker basket overflowing with fruit and vegetables.

The work forms an allegory on the cycles of life. A nest of birds' eggs implies birth. Full blossoms and ripe fruit suggest maturity. The gnarled tree stump characterizes old age. Ultimately, death appears with the fish and a lizard, being eaten by ants. The wheat and grapes offer salvation by symbolizing Jesus' blessing of bread and wine at the Last Supper.

An early biographer noted that Mignon was "especially diligent," a quality that this stunning array of textures certainly proves. After training in his native Germany, Mignon moved to Utrecht. While there he probably worked in the studio of Jan Davidsz de Heem, who had briefly returned from Antwerp. Mignon consequently acquired De Heem's Flemish taste for rich color and complex design.

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