ROELANT SAVERY
BOUQUET OF FLOWERS, THE SO-CALLED LIECHTENSTEIN BOUQUET
The meticulous attention to detail in the Bouquet of Flowers by Roelant Savery reveals the painting’s origins in botanical studies. This quality appealed to his patron Emperor Rudolf II at whose court Savery was employed when he painted the picture and whose gardens he certainly had access to. Savery used oil paint with the refinement and precision of drawing, and his work is thus related to the achievements of the famous miniaturist Georg Hoefnagel (1542–1600), who also worked in Prague. His colourful arrangement is symmetrical and composed in an orderly fashion, though the abundance of flowers is a misleading element here. In the foreground, he lines up a mouse, a grasshopper, a salamander and a bee, apparently offering them to the viewer as objects for scientific study. Apart from the pleasure derived from the beauty of the pictures, viewers at the time also took particular delight in the secondary levels of meaning in flower still lifes: here, the mouse and the flower that has fallen off can be seen as symbolizing earth; the bee, air; and the salamander, fire. Together with the water in the vase, this arrangement represents an allegory of the four elements. The flowers, which bloom at different times of the year, symbolize the four seasons. Cut flowers, which retain their beauty only over a few days, also stand for the transience of human life.
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Roelant Savery
Bouquet of Flowers, the so-called Liechtenstein Bouquet, 1612
Oil on canvas
height 49 cm, width 34 cm
Signed and dated: R.SAVERY.1612
Inv.-No. GE789
Provenance: c. 1700 Felix Sekerka von Sedèic Count Wrschowetz Collection in Prague, 1723 sold from the estate of Count Wrschowetz; 1787 acquired by Prince Alois I von Liechtenstein with the collection of his librarian, Abbé Valentin Lucchini, in Vienna
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