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Artist: Binoit, Peter 1 of 1

Flowers in a Glass Beaker, c. 1620

Peter Binoit

German, 1590/93-1632/39
Oil on copper
12-1/4 x 9 in. (31.1 x 22.9 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1973.26.P
© 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation

Not on view

Self-reflection was an abiding preoccupation in the early seventeenth century among Catholics and Protestants alike, and the still life was ideally suited to stimulate and focus such contemplation in a non-narrative way. Though the flowers, especially the fashionable tulip, were treasured as exemplars of precious objects meant to delight, they also served as carriers of symbolic meaning intended to edify. This lovely composed bouquet, enlivened with a few flying and crawling creatures, contains symbols associated with the brevity of life, preparation for the afterlife and the promise of an eternity in heaven.

Read in this way, the fallen sprigs allude to decay and transience, underscored by the fact that the flowers in Binoit’s bouquet bloom briefly and in different seasons. The snail and fly signify laziness and sin. These negative references are balanced by other motifs that hold the promise of paradise. The iris is a symbol of Mary and of hope. The red carnation customarily refers to the Passion of Christ. The butterfly embodies the soul, since its maturation and emergence from the cocoon is a sort of resurrection. Likewise, the dragonfly, which is born without wings, stands for the redeemed soul.

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Artist: Binoit, Peter 1 of 1