Bowl of Lemons and Oranges on a Box of Wood Shavings and Pomegranates ca. 1630s

Still life features a wooden box of lemons, oranges, and leaves against a dark background. Water droplets and an open pomegranate in the foreground provides depth.

Louise Moillon, Bowl of Lemons and Oranges on a Box of Wood Shavings and Pomegranates, ca. 1630s; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Louise Moillon is best known for images such as Bowl of Lemons and Oranges on a Box of Wood Shavings and Pomegranates. The composition’s elegant simplicity complements her technique—she masterfully rendered the distinctive textures of the fruit, leaves, wooden box, and water droplets, giving the painting an almost photographic quality.

This method of illusionism, known as trompe l’oeil (fool the eye), was a highly prized quality in 17th-century painting. Moillon used devices such as the open pomegranate, which hangs slightly over the ledge, to create the impression that the space in the painting is shared with the viewer. The tactile quality of the lemons and oranges reinforces this illusion, as does the extension of the ledge to the edges of the picture plane, a common motif in Moillon’s still lifes.

Based on similar, signed paintings, this piece was probably executed by Moillon in the 1630s.

National Museum of Women in the Arts