Tastes change. Religious wars brought a political suspicion towards religious themes. In Prague Rudolf II prefers the observation of nature to his political commitments. Hoefnagel draws and paints for that emperor some collections of flowers and animals.
In 1606 Brueghel invents the still life of flowers. The details of his letters provide some view into the process of his first trial that is already a masterpiece. It is quite possible that this new style is executed by the artist from an idea suggested by the cardinal.
This is of course not the first time that a painting shows flowers in a vase, but these artworks previously considered as minor had mainly serve as modelli to be included in more ambitious compositions. Borromeo wishes a representation of blossoms in the whole variety of their shapes and colors for brightening his living throughout the year, so enjoying nature even outside the blooming period.
Very enthusiastic for this project, Brueghel painted the flowers from late spring until late summer within an overall plan that allows him to add them at their rightful place on the panel as and when they hatch. The great variety of brilliant colors meets the expectation of the cardinal. The overcrowding of the flowers in the vase is unrealistic : it is an artistic trick to escape the didactic alignments of Hoefnagel.
The artist produced several paintings in a similar technique in the following years. He gave up soon although not before 1611 their painting by direct observation and these early works will then serve as modelli. The goal remains decorative. Other artists will add the use of flowers and small animals as symbols and the arrangements inside wreaths.
One of the first original flower paintings by Brueghel is estimated £ 3M for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 6, lot 11. This oil on oak panel is dated circa 1608 by experts.
SOLD for £ 3.85M including premium
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