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Enjoy It While You Can

Jacob van Hulsdonck’s “Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Pomegranate”

Jacob van Hulsdonck’s “Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Pomegranate”

I have always been partial to Flemish still lifes, ever since I first saw “Still LIfe with Oysters and Grapes” (1653) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. See below for an image of the still life.

With both of these paintings, and with many Dutch and Flemish still life paintings of the Seventeenth Century, there is a strong moral dimension. According to Wikipedia:

Virtually all still lifes had a moralistic message, usually concerning the brevity of life—this is known as the vanitas theme—implicit even in the absence of an obvious symbol like a skull, or less obvious one such as a half-peeled lemon (like life, sweet in appearance but bitter to taste). Flowers wilt and food decays, and silver is of no use to the soul.

You can see this with the fly on the leftmost lemon in the plate, as well as the aging film showing on the cut pieces of fruit.

Jan Davidszoon de Heem’s “Still Life with Oysters and Grapes”

Jan Davidszoon de Heem’s “Still Life with Oysters and Grapes”


I had always thought of still life paintings are relatively innocuous. And so they are, but they also remind one that time is passing, and the food and flowers on display are the things of a moment.

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