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Still Life with Fruits and Flowers, c. 1638

Isaak Soreau

German, 1604-after 1638
Oil on panel
28-3/4 x 40-1/4 in. (73.0 x 102.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

A specialist in tabletop still lifes that feature fruits and flowers, Isaak Soreau arranged the luscious display here to full advantage by tilting the table forward so that it is seen slightly from above. Every element is crisply and artfully portrayed. One might think that the artist worked quickly to capture the lush ripeness of the fruit and the dewy flower petals while they were still in their prime, but such meticulous description required an equally meticulous preparation and application of paint.

To begin, Soreau laid a smooth white ground cover over the horizontally grained panel; he then laid in the design with red-brown and ocher underpainting (note the silhouettes of the original underpainting around the carnations). Then the details and textures—the veined leaves, grapes and woven basket—were added using small brushes to apply the paint in smooth layers that were alternately opaque or thin and glaze-like. Uniform lighting not only emphasizes the distinctness of the details and local colors but also imparts a portrait-like character to the tableau. This sense of a moment frozen in time is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of ephemeral details, such as the tiny water drops on various surfaces, the fly stationed between two plums and the dragonfly aloft on a grape stem. If such deception causes the viewer to look twice, the artist has succeeded.

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