De Heem's still-life
paintings initially followed the style of the Haarlem school, but later
drew closer to the more lavish Flemish style of large-scale still-lifes.
Nevertheless, certain Dutch elements cannot be overlooked. In this
painting, they are particularly evident at the points where a
"dialectical principle" determines the compositional
A mass of fruit and
flowers ranging from ripe chestnuts to blackberries, from columbine to
roses, has been arranged on a stone slab. A wide variety of surfaces,
each with a different effect in light, with pure or iridescent colours,
is spread out before us. Yet snails are already crawling across the vine
leaves, the foliage is discoloured and withering and, the ears of grain
are curling, the peach has burst its skin, the citrus fruit is half
peeled, the white carnation is dried and drooping over the table edge.
At the very point where
the image bears an iconographic message of the transience of worldly
life in the form of nature's riches, we see these things in their last
bloom of beauty. Just as a ruin could represent the picturesque appeal
of architecture, so too can a vine leaf riddled with snails seem
picturesque in the full and final flowering of its beauty.
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