Around 1600 the flower still life emerged as an autonomous pictorial subject. The Renaissance brought a great revival in the natural sciences, including botany, and the resulting studies of nature must have promoted the development of the genre. The discovery of new continents also led to the introduction and naturalization of exotic plants and flowers. 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 Joris 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.
- oil on oak panel
- 49 × 35 cm
- acquired 1787 by Prince Alois I von Liechtenstein
- Roelant Savery
- Inventory number
- GE 789
- Signature/inscriptions content only available in German
sign. unten links: .R.SAVERY .1612.
Siegel: rückseitig zwei unidentifizierte Siegel in Schwarz
- possibly direct commission from Emperor Rudolf II to the artist; possibly by inheritance to Emperor Matthias; around 1700 collection Felix Sekerka of Sedic Count Wrschowetz, Prague, sold in 1723 from the estate of Count Wrschowetz, acquired in 1787 by Prince Alois l. of Liechtenstein with the collection of his librarian Abbé Valentin Lucchini in Vienna
- Place of origin
- Still life of flowers