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Artist: Binoit, Peter 1 of 1
Flowers in a Glass Beaker

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
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Self-reflection preoccupied early 17th-century Catholics and Protestants alike, and the still-life genre was ideally suited to stimulate such contemplation. Though flowers, especially the fashionable tulip, were treasured as precious, even collectible, objects, they also served symbolic functions. This composed bouquet, enlivened with flying and crawling creatures, contains symbols associated with the brevity of life and spiritual preparation for death.

Read in this way, the fallen sprigs allude to decay and transience, underscored by the fact that the depicted flowers 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 heaven. The iris is a symbol of the Virgin Mary and of hope, and the red carnation customarily refers to Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. The butterfly and dragonfly embody the salvation of the soul, due to their maturation from flightless to winged insects.

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Artist: Binoit, Peter 1 of 1