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The Dramatic Image: Baroque Prints of the 17th Century

Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer
French, 1635–1699

Corbeille de fleurs (Basket of Flowers)

Etching, about 1670–80
Gift of Jefferson D. Robinson in memory of his wife, Mary Elizabeth, by exchange, 2009.346

This etching of a basket of flowers contains tuberoses, passion flowers, jasmine, carnations, and pomegranate blossoms. While examples of still lifes exist from the time of the Greeks and Romans, they reemerged with new vigor in the 1590s and remained very popular in the 17th century. They were easily understood and familiar and reflected the Baroque period’s taste for realism.

Before and during the Renaissance still lifes were filled with religious allegory and allusion. With the beginning of the Baroque period realistic paintings of plants and inanimate objects were valued in their own right. Caravaggio, one of the earliest Baroque artists, has been attributed with the popularization of the genre. He specialized in fruits and flowers early in his career and painted his subjects as true to nature as possible.