Pomona y Vertumno [Pomona and Vertumnus]
Juan van der Hamen y León
In this painting on a mythological theme, the painter uses the encounter between the goddess of orchards and fruits and the god of the seasons to represent the fecundity of the earth. The fruits and vegetables stacked in the foreground also evoke themes of pictorial illusionism, "vanitas" and scientific classification.
Reloj de sobremesa. Alegoría del verano y del otoño [Table Clock. Allegory of Summer and Autumn]
Here, the theme of abundance is expressed in the form of two "putti". One is shown holding a cup in one hand and picking grapes with the other; the other is gathering ears of wheat with a sickle. As a product of human ingenuity, the clock is also a symbol of cultural domination over the natural.
Bodegón de frutas y dulces [Still Life of Fruits and Sweetmeats]
Juan van der Hamen y León
Although Van der Hamen based himself on models by Juan Sánchez Cotán, his still lifes focus on products that reflect the refined world of the court in Madrid. The cakes and the sweetmeats, made with sugar and spices, and the three tomatoes from the Americas hint at that aristocratic context of artifice and classification.
Los meses de mayo y junio [The Months of May and June]
In this tapestry, the floral theme is provided by a garland planted with roses, carnations, lilies and, above all, tulips— a flower that was equated with artistic creation in the Baroque world. Here, the technical expertise of the weaver is matched against the skill of nature, expressed in the flowers.
Florero [Vase of Flowers]
Juan de Arellano
This painting of a vase of flowers represents two essential themes in the tradition of flower painting. On the one hand, it enhances the artificial nature of flowers, by combining varieties (including the ‘artificial’ tulip) that bloom at different times of the year. On the other, it recalls their transience ("vanitas"), by showing some of them already beginning to droop.
Busan02 de la serie Paraísos Artificiales [Busan02, Series Artificial Paradises]
The flowers portrayed in this photograph of a South Korean shop are artificial, but the careful composition —the receding tile floor, the cropping of the frame, and the plant hanging from the ceiling— conveys at once a natural lushness, and a meticulous order and impossible perfection.
Art Forms Mechanism XX
In these photographs of nineteenth-century detachable models used for teaching botany, Linarejos Moreno employs a visual language that critically imitates that of Karl Blossfeldt, drawing our attention to details that were intended to remain invisible: the metal hinges, cuts and welds evidencing the industrial and mechanical origins of these pieces.
Loto rosa [Pink Lotus]
In this acrylic on printed velvet, Toledo-born Felicidad Moreno uses contemporary feminist premises to champion the association between the floral and the ornamental/feminine. She highlights the liberating and pleasurable aspects of these elements in an art world that often appears overly rational, austere and serious.
Throughout the history of Western portraiture, bouquets of flowers have been viewed as attributes of femininity. In this portrait, the Russian artist reverts to this traditional motif, but with an energetic tone that celebrates the decorative/floral/feminine.
Virgen del lirio [Madonna of the Lily]
Cornelis van Cleve
This religious painting, with its "trompe l’oeil" depiction of a lily in the foreground, is a magnificent antecedent to the independent still life genre. The painter appears to be alluding to the grapes painted by the legendary Zeuxis in antiquity, a theme of particular importance for the development of the genre.
Naturaleza muerta con as de trébol [Still-life with Ace of Clubs]
This example of late cubism combines the theme of pictorial experimentation and that of "vanitas", both of which were traditional in the genre. The off-centre, angular composition reflects a moment of tension that betrays a human presence (and consequent absence), and his brushwork reinforces the theme of the fleetingness of life.
Comida quemada [Burnt Food]
In this almost neo-expressionist oil painting, Miquel Barceló uses the perishable, manipulable nature of food altered by chemical processes (boiling, frying, etc.) as the basis for a wider reflection on the transformation of organic matter, including paint itself.
These abstract ceramic grapes, mid-way between painting and sculpture, call to mind Zeuxis’s famous grapes. Toubes also uses chance as part of his creative process, linking his art to the notions of "vanitas".
Armario de bronce I [Bronze Dresser I]
In this bronze sculpture, Laffón evokes the passage of time and its monotony through the silent poetry of the everyday. At the same time, by using bronze Laffón forges a link to a long artistic tradition of monumental sculpture, thus bringing an almost timeless dimension to her work.
Sin título [Untitled]
This photograph, from Masó’s project "It’s not Just a Question of Artificial Light or Daylight" (2000-2001), shows a dried leaf against a background of green ones. This simple reflection connects with one of the most persistent traditions in the depiction of flowers and fruits, the "vanitas".
Wakari (Fruto dulce de la selva) [Wakari (Sweet Fruit of the Jungle)]
In this painting, Hakihiiwe retrieves materials, forms of representation and meanings from his native culture, that of the Yanomami people of the Venezuelan Amazon region. Created from a position of knowledge, respect and local integration, the picture is an antidote to the wholesale uprooting that characterises the European tradition of natural history.
Sin título (Plantas selva yucateca en peligro de extinción) [Untitled (Yucatán Jungle Plants)]
On the surface, this drawing of a bush native to the Yucatan jungle references European botanical treatises. However, the artist introduces dissonant notes (using ink made from the ash of burnt dollar bills and featuring words in the Mayan language) that highlight the cultural constructs of colonial history and its aftermath.
Brazilian Rain Forest [Brazilian Rain Forest]
In this photo-collage, the artist constructs an idealised vision of the Amazon rainforest through images of real landscapes altered using pictorial techniques. The result is an imaginary landscape whose abundance and fertility invites us to reflect on the fragility of natural surroundings doomed to disappear.