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Flowers in a Vase

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Jan Brueghel I
Brussels 1568 - Antwerp 1625
oil on panel
101 x 76 cm
Inventory number 643

A vertically arranged bouquet fills the entire panel. Under the Crown Imperial - the orange flower on the left - and the white lily branch on the right, we see an abundance of flowers in various stages of growth and bloom. The assortment includes forget-me-nots, tulips, carnations, irises, cornflower and peony. Every single flower has been painted with the greatest care, as have the vase and the insects below. However, the bouquet is not entirely natural. There are, for example, no overlaps whatsoever, so that the viewer can see each flower in its entirety.
Jan Brueghel I, son of Pieter Bruegel, was an accomplished painter of flowers, as this composition demonstrates. As an already established artist, he pioneered flower still-life painting and turned it into a genre in its own right. However, he was too versatile an artist to restrict himself to flower painting. He also painted rich miniature landscapes and hellscapes, as well as scenes from village life and mythological themes.

A family effort?

According to Brueghel expert Klaus Ertz, Jan I needed no preparatory sketches for his floral paintings. He used to paint them directly onto wooden or copper panels during the flowering season. This particular work was probably a joint effort, as Ertz recognises the hands of two different artists, each with their own distinct qualities. On this basis, he hypothesises that the painting is a successful collaboration between Jan I and his son Jan II.

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