A Still Life of Lilies, Roses, Iris, Pansies, Columbine, Love-in-a-Mist, Larkspur and other Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Table Top, Flanked by a Rose and a Carnation ca. 1610

Still life shows a variety of brightly colored flowers set against a dark background.

Clara Peeters, A Still Life of Lilies, Roses, Iris, Pansies, Columbine, Love-in-a-Mist, Larkspur and Other Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Table Top, Flanked by a Rose and a Carnation, 1610; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

This still life is one of the largest and most lavish of Clara Peeters’s flower pieces. Characteristically, the artist attempts to fool viewers’ eyes into perceiving depth by situating the bouquet on a narrow ledge. Set against a dark background, the arrangement also features illusionistic overhanging rose leaves against a dark background. Two blooms have dropped from the vase: a rose on the left and carnation on the right help balance the composition.

Peeters innovates by moving away from the strict symmetry and simplicity of earlier flower paintings. Typically, such works featured one flower at the apex of the bouquet. Peeters created dynamism in this composition by including an unopened iris bud at the pinnacle of the arrangement, just above the open bloom. She also used color to move the viewer’s eye around the canvas. Each bright flower scattered throughout the composition vies for attention. Her ability to depict flowers overlapping one another as they would in an actual bouquet, as well as her presentation of flowers from all angles, lends a novel visual interest to Peeters’s composition.

Still-life painting was a new genre in the early 17th century. Smaller, more intimate paintings like these, were popular with burgeoning middle-class populations in cities such as Antwerp and Amsterdam. Perhaps it is not surprising that a woman painter was able to make significant contributions to subject matter that was gaining popularity just as her career began to flourish.

National Museum of Women in the Arts