Overview

The Dutch and Flemish took extraordinary delight in depictions of the natural world as an expression of God’s everlasting blessing. The flower paintings of Jan Davidsz de Heem celebrate the beauty of flora while at the same time exemplifying the concept of Ars longa, vita brevis  (art is long, life is short) embodied in the Dutch still-life paintings of the seventeenth century. De Heem’s paintings also reflected the great interest in botany at that time, and this work includes exotic flowers and plants brought back from faraway places, such as the tulip, originally imported into Europe from Turkey in the 1550s.

De Heem was one of the most gifted, versatile, and influential still-life artists of his age. His refined technique allowed him to portray a great variety of textures that captured the very essence of the objects, including the petals of exotic flowers; long bent reeds of wheat; minute creatures such as butterflies, ants, snails, and caterpillars; and finally, the reflective surfaces of glass. In this work, De Heem creates a harmonious arrangement by balancing the colors and shapes of thirty-one types of flowers, vegetables, and grains. Despite the illusion of reality, this bouquet could have never actually existed, as the various flowers would have bloomed in different seasons. De Heem often included specific animals and flowers in his work for their symbolic meanings. Representing darkness and decay, a salamander stares hungrily at a spider, while a snail, a moth, and some ants crawl on the marble shelf. The memento mori (rememeber that you will die) images are counterbalanced by the wheat stalks symbolizing the Eucharist, and by the caterpillar and butterfly on the white poppy, which evoke redemption and resurrection.

Inscription

lower left on parapet: J.D. De Heem f.

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild [1808-1879], London; by inheritance to his son, Leopold de Rothschild [1845-1917]; by inheritance to his son, Lionel Nathan de Rothschild [1882-1942], Exbury, Hampshire; by inheritance to his son, Edmund Leopold de Rothschild [1916-2009], Exbury; sold 1947 to (Frank Partridge and Sons, London).[1] Mr. McIntosh, Bridge Allen, Scotland.[2] (William Hallsborough Gallery, London, 1958). (Fritz Nathan and Peter Nathan, Zurich, 1959); (Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York); purchased 17 May 1961 by NGA.

Exhibition History

1958
Exhibition of Fine Paintings and Drawings of Four Centuries, William Hallsborough Gallery, London, 1958.
1991
Jan Davidsz. de Heem en zijn kring, Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, 1991, no. 30.
1991
The Age of the Marvelous, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 1991-1992, no. 157, repro.
1995
Dutch Cabinet Galleries, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1995-1996, no catalogue.
1998
A Collector's Cabinet, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, no. 25.
1999
From Botany to Bouquets: Flowers in Northern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999, no. 16, fig. 55.
2006
De verleiding van Flora: Jan van Huysum 1682-1749 (The Temptations of Flora: Jan van Huysum 1682-1749), Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2006-2007, no. P4, repro., as Flower Piece with White Opium Poppy and Peapods.

Bibliography

1958
Bury, Adrian. "Fine Paintings and Drawings of Four Centuries at the William Hallsborough Galleries." Connoisseur 141, no. 569 (May 1958): 175-177.
1958
Nicolson, Benedict. "Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions: London." The Burlington Magazine 100, no. 662 (May 1958): 186.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 198, repro.
1964
Walker, John. National Gallery, Washington, D.C. Collection Trésors des grands musées. Translated by Marie Somogy. Paris, 1964: 198-199, color repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 66.
1965
Pavière, Sydney H. Floral Art: Great Masters of Flower Painting. Leigh-on-Sea, 1965: 20, colorplate 7.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 58, no. 1649, repro.
1972
Nathan Fine Arts. Dr. Fritz Nathan und Dr. Peter Nathan, 1922-1972. Zürich, 1972: no. 10.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 172, repro.
1978
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 42, pl. 20.
1982
Segal, Sam. A Flowery Past: A Survey of Dutch and Flemish Flower Painting from 1600 until the Present. Exh. cat. Kunsthandel P. de Boer, Amsterdam; Noordbrabants Museum, 's-Hertogenbosch. Mijdrecht, 1982: 12-25.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 306, no. 403, color repro.
1984
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1984: 18-19, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 199, repro.
1988
Grimm, Claus. Stilleben: Die niederländischen und deutschen Meister. Stuttgart, 1988: 143.
1989
Meijer, Fred G. Stillevens uit de Gouden Eeuw. Exh. cat. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1989: no. 23.
1989
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "Still Life: Its Visual Appeal and Theoretical Status in the Seventeenth Century." In Still Lifes of the Golden Age: Northern European Paintings from the Heinz Family Collection. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. and Ingvar Bergström. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Washington, 1989: 14-15.
1991
The Age of the Marvelous. Exh. cat. Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 1991-1992: 381, no. 157, repro.
1991
Segal, Sam. Jan Davidsz de Heem en zijn kring. Exh. cat. Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig. The Hague, 1991: no. 30.
1991
Segal, Sam. Jan Davidsz de Heem und sein Kreis. Exh. cat. Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig. Braunschweig, 1991: no. 30.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 127, repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 103-106, color repro. 105.
1998
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. A Collector's Cabinet. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998: 66, no. 25.
1999
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. From Botany to Bouquets: Flowers in Northern Art. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1999: 61-63, no. 16, fig. 55.
2002
Ebert-Schifferer, Sybille. Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil painting. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2002: 84, fig. 6.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 190-191, no. 152, color repro.
2006
Segal, Sam, Mariël Ellens, and Joris Dik. De verleiding van Flora: Jan van Huysum, 1682-1749. Exh. cat. Museum het Prinsenhof, Delft; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Zwolle, 2006: 118-119, no. 4, repro.
2007
Meijer, F. G. "Exhibition Reviews: The 'Temptations of Flora': Jan van Huysum (1682-1749)." Burlington Magazine 149, no. 1247 (2007): 134-135.
2007
Segal, Sam. The Temptations of Flora: Jan van Huysum, 1682-1749. Translated by Beverly Jackson. Exh. cat. Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Zwolle, 2007: 118-119, no. 4, repro.
2012
Paul, Tanya, et al. Elegance and Refinement: The still-life paintings of Willem van Aelst. Exh. cat. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 2012: 42-43, fig. 7.

Conservation Notes

The support, a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric with irregularly spun threads, has been lined with the tacking margins trimmed. Cusping is visible along all edges.Paint is applied over a thin, smooth off-white ground in thin, liquid layers blended wet-into-wet. Outer flowers are painted over the dark background, while the central bouquet is painted directly over the white ground. The red-and-white poppy is painted over a light green underlayer. Reserves were left for details when final glazes were applied. Thin glazes are slightly abraded. Small losses in the background have been inpainted. No major treatment has been carried out since acquisition.

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