Abraham Mignon united this sumptuous floral piece through the free-flowing rhythms of flowers, fruits, and grains, all tied together with a blue satin bow. The various shapes and vivid colors complement one another with easy naturalness, proof of Mignon’s exquisite sense of design. Paintings of hanging bouquets had their origins in the Catholic church’s practice of decorating altars with garlands of live flowers. Mignon’s stunning array of textures certainly validates an early biographer’s observation that the artist was "especially diligent."
After training in his native Germany, Mignon moved to Utrecht where he probably worked in the studio of Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606–1684), who resided in Utrecht from 1667 to 1672, before returning to Antwerp. Mignon consequently adopted De Heem's "Flemish" taste for rich color and complex design.
Abraham Mignon united this decorative floral piece through the free-flowing rhythms of flowers, fruits, and grains that hang from a blue satin bow. With crystalline clarity and an exquisite sense of design, he arranged blossoms in such a way that their various shapes and vivid colors complement one another with an easy naturalness. At the center of the composition are the large forms and pale colors of the white viburnum, the light pink carnation, and the white and red variegated tulip. Smaller orange red poppies, crab apple blossoms, Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi), amaranthus, and long grains of wheat surround these flowers. While the bouquet hangs gracefully, the composition overall has an energetic feel because of the way the various flowers, including the morning glory, yellow rose, and the blue love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), turn back upon themselves as they reach up to the light.
Mignon painted a large number of such hanging bouquets, sometimes focused on flowers, sometimes on fruit.
For a listing of these, see the catalog of Mignon’s paintings in Magdalena Kraemer-Noble, Abraham Mignon 1640–1679 (Leigh-on-Sea, 1973).
Seghers collaborated with a number of other artists in these works, including
These observations are made by Ildiko Ember in Delights for the Senses: Dutch and Flemish Still-Life Paintings from Budapest (Wausau, WI, 1989), 66.
Seghers’ innovation was widely emulated in Flemish art. Paintings of flowers and fruits surrounding illusionistically painted sculptures and religious scenes were executed by a number of Flemish artists, among them Joris van Son (1623–1667), Jan Pauwels Gillemans I (1618–c. 1675), Frans Ykens (1613–c. 1679), and, most significantly in this context, Mignon’s teacher,
For an assessment of the symbolic relationships of a number of these paintings, see Symbolique & botanique: le sens caché des fleurs dans la peinture au XVIIe siècle (Caen, 1987).
See Sam Segal and Liesbeth M. Helmus, Jan Davidsz. de Heem en zijn kring (Utrecht, 1991), no. 27, 177–180. In this painting from the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, signed and dated 1653, a crucifix and a skull rest in the niche from which hangs a garland of fruit. Segal analyzes extensively the symbolic associations of the fruit.
See Sam Segal and Liesbeth M. Helmus, Jan Davidsz. de Heem en zijn kring (Utrecht, 1991), no. 23, 171–172. According to Segal, De Heem painted more than ten such paintings. One of these is dated 1675. In 1669, however, Cosimo de’ Medici acquired such a garland painting, which hangs today in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence.
In this painting, Mignon has removed even those vague references to the origins of this pictorial genre that remained in De Heem’s garland paintings. A Hanging Bouquet of Flowers lacks any reference to the central devotional character of Seghers’ paintings, and all references to a niche have been eliminated as well. The blue ribbon that holds the festoon is all that remains from the earlier tradition. Despite this adaptation in the character of the motif, the strong relationship of this work with De Heem’s paintings suggests that Mignon probably executed it in the late 1660s, shortly after he left De Heem’s workshop.
There is absolutely no reason to question the attribution, as was done by Kraemer-Noble. See Magdalena Kraemer-Noble, Abraham Mignon 1640–1679 (Leigh-on-Sea, 1973), 53, no. B142.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
lower left: AB (in ligature) Mignon f.
Private collection, England; (John Mitchell & Son, London); purchased November 1961 by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1992 to NGA.
The support is a single, vertically grained oak board with thin wood strips attached to the edges, which are beveled on the back. The lower right corner is chipped and worn. Thin opaque paint is applied over a thin, smooth, pale gray ground in layers blended wet-into-wet with slightly impasted highlights. Red underpaint is visible in the blue flower near the center and may be present in other areas as well. Abrasion is extensive, particularly in the background. In 1994 the painting underwent treatment to consolidate flaking and remove discolored inpainting and varnish.
 The wood was analyzed by the NGA Scientific Research department (see report dated August 1993 in NGA Conservation department files).
 The pigments were analyzed using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy by the NGA Scientific Research department (see report dated August 17, 1993, in NGA Conservation department files).
- The Connoisseur 147 (June 1961): vii, color repro.
- Pavière, Sydney H. Floral Art - Great Masters of Flower Painting. Leigh-on-Sea, 1965: 32, color repro. 34.
- Kraemer-Noble, Magdalena. Abraham Mignon, 1640-1679. Catalogue Raisonné. Leigh-on-Sea, 1973: 53, no. B142 (noted by the author as "probably not genuine").
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 172-174, color repro. 173.
- Kraemer-Noble, Magdalena. Abraham Mignon, 1640-1679: catalogue raisonné. Studien zur internationalen Architektur- und Kunstgeschichte, vol. 44. Petersberg, 2007: no. 8, 60, repro. 61.
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