Wednesday 28 December 2016

A Puzzle

A few months ago, I put up a link to this piece that I wrote about Dutch flower paintings at the National Gallery. Now a letter - email rather - has come in, asking a question to which I have no answer. So naturally I'm throwing it open to my erudite readers...
 My correspondent points out that, despite the Dutch passion for flowers and flower paintings in the 17th century, the interiors depicted so beautifully in paintings of the period seem never to feature any flowers at all, not so much as a few tulips in a vase.
 Obviously the kind of arrangements depicted in those virtuoso flower paintings were out of the question - but no flowers at all in the house? Or perhaps there were flowers, but for some reason they were omitted by the painters of interiors?
 I can't think of a single Golden Age interior painting with flowers in it, nor can I explain their absence. Has anyone got any ideas?


  1. Or maybe the expense? Or I wonder if they actually preferred paintings of flowers, or the idea of flowers, to the real things - a bit like today when so many people prefer cookery on TV to actual cooking.

  2. I think the point of all those Dutch flower paintings is that they are meant to be seen as a memento mori. Dutch artists were a very didactic lot. Yes, the flowers are beautiful but they wither and die - they are but a fleeting snapshot of beauty. We are all dust etc. And there is deliberate artifice contained within the pictures as the blooms portrayed could not all be in season at the same time so they were never meant to be seen as still lives. You have got me thinking and I'm going to have to go back to my books to see if I can find a vase of flowers in any Dutch interior scenes. I suspect they would have been considered out of place by the conventions of Dutch genre painting.