Among Jan Brueghel the Elder's many talents was his ability to bring to life the visual splendor of the natural world. He was known as "Velvet Brueghel" for his ability to paint rich and delicate textures. His sensitive handling of paint, which ranged from thick impastos to thin glazes, created effervescent forms imbued with extraordinary naturalness. Each tulip, rose, columbine, anemone, and even little insect or butterfly comes alive under his brush, belying the very notion that this painting should be called a still life.
In this magnificent work, Brueghel pictures a profusion of fresh-cut flowers in a wicker basket as though they were just brought from the garden. A few of the finer specimens, including a rare multicolored tulip, have been carefully arranged in a glass vase. Brueghel's sumptuous array of flowers could never have existed in reality, however: tulips and columbines are spring blossoms, roses appear at the beginning of summer, and anemones bloom in the autumn. By depicting flowers from different times of the year, Brueghel expressed the fundamental theological concept that the blessings of God's creation were to be found in the abundance of the natural world. Accuracy was important in recording God's creations (the individual flowers), but equally important was an imaginative melding of the flowers from different season to celebrate the greatness of His munificence.
lower right: BRUEGHEL 1615
General Bruylandt, Brussels. (sale, Galerie Paul Brandt, Amsterdam, 10 October 1967, no. 6); (Edward Speelman, Ltd., London); sold January 1968 to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1992 to NGA.
- Art for the Nation: Gifts in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991, 48-49, color repro.
- Dutch Cabinet Galleries, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1995-1996, no cat.
- From Botany to Bouquets: Flowers in Northern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999, no. 13, fig. 39.
- "Le Guide de l'Acheteur." Connaissance des Arts. 196 (1968): 115, repro.
- Ertz, Klaus. Jan Brueghel the Ältere. Cologne, 1979: 297-298, 606, no. 293, color repro.
- Ertz, Klaus. Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568-1625). Cologne, 1981: 118, repro.
- Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn 1982: 102.
- Ertz, Klaus. Jan Breughel der Jüngere (1601-1678), die Gemälde mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog. Freren, 1984: 449.
- Liedtke, Walter A. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1984: 1:23.
- Hairs, Marie-Louise. The Flemish Flower Painters in the XVIIth Century. Translated by Eva Grzelak. Brussels, 1985: 39.
- Brenninkmeijer-de Rooij, Beatrijs. Roots of seventeenth-century Flower Painting: Miniatures, Plant Books, Paintings. Leiden, 1996: 83.
- Yapou, Yonna. "Dutch Acquisitions in Washington." Apollo 144, no. 418 (December 1996): 20, repro.
- Breughel-Brueghel: Pieter Breughel der Jüngere-Jan Brueghel der Ältere. Exh. cat. Kultuurstiftung Ruhr, Villa Hügel, Essen; Kunsthistorisches Museums Wien; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Anterp. Lingen, 1997: 286, repro.
- Hairs, Marie-Louise. Les peintres flamands de fleurs au XVIIe siècle: autour de Jan Brueghel de Velours, Daniel Seghers, Roelandt Saverij, Ambrosius Bosschaert l'Ancien, Jan van Kessel, Jacob van Es, Frans Snyders, Joris van Son et d'une soixantaine. 4th ed. Tournai, 1998: 47.
- Laird, Mark. "From Bouquets to Baskets." Antiques (June 2000): 937, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 230, no. 182, color repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 18-20, color repro.