Image: Abraham Mignon, Still Life with Fruit, Fish, and a Nest (c. 1675). Oil on canvas.
For our weekend posting about art, we continue gazing at still lifes. This one comes from the focal point for the movement, The Netherlands. It is by a German artist, Abraham Mignon, who moved to Utrecht. He was born in German, 1640 and died young in 1679.
The painting is in the holdings of the National Gallery of Art (Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. John Heinz III). Here is their write-up:
“Many Dutch still-life painters silhouetted their carefully arranged foreground objects against neutral, blank backgrounds. Similarly, the forest backdrop here is so dark it nearly conceals a stone archway. The abundance of the sea and the land is suggested by the fishing rod, bait box, and catch of fish that surround a wicker basket overflowing with fruit and vegetables.
“The work forms an allegory on the cycles of life. A nest of birds’ eggs implies birth. Full blossoms and ripe fruit suggest maturity. The gnarled tree stump characterizes old age. Ultimately, death appears with the fish and a lizard, being eaten by ants. The wheat and grapes offer salvation by symbolizing Jesus’ blessing of bread and wine at the Last Supper.
“An early biographer noted that Mignon was “especially diligent,” a quality that this stunning array of textures certainly proves. After training in his native Germany, Mignon moved to Utrecht. While there he probably worked in the studio of Jan Davidsz de Heem, who had briefly returned from Antwerp. Mignon consequently acquired De Heem’s Flemish taste for rich color and complex design.”
The addition of life and movement to the still life is fascinating to see.
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