The painting “Flowers in a Glass Vase” is one of the most important works by Abraham Mignon, a baroque Dutch painter, who specialized in still nature. His paintings are characterized by incredibly decorative compositions painted with unparalleled technical dexterity. The scientific precision with which he presented elements of flora and fauna is unmatched.
It is clearly visible in the “Flowers in a Glass Vase” painting. The work of art depicts a dense bouquet of multicoloured flowers, in a glass container, on a stone window sill. It contains various tulips, peonies, poppies, forget-me-nots, camomile, pot marigold, morning glory, irises, and clove. In the central point we can see a white rose, around which the other flowers, as well as leaves, grass, and wheat spikes are arranged.
The plants hang freely, touching the window sill and extending to the sides. In this way, Mignon created an illusion of space, grading the lighting of the individual elements of the bouquet. The flowers placed in the centre are illuminated with bright light; those nearer to the viewer are in a half-light, while the back part of the bouquet, with the iris and the clove, is in a shade. The illusion is completed with the rectangular shape of the window, reflected in the glass container.
Mignon painted his work so smoothly that brush strokes are invisible. With meticulous perfection, he traced the shapes and natural colours of flowers, insects and other living beings. Heavy shades of red – the painter’s favourite – dominate the painting.
On the window sill, to the right of the glass container, Mignon depicted a branch with a fruit of orange, alluding to the name of the painting’s commissioners – the Orange-Nassau house (oranje means “an orange” in Dutch).
The warm colour of the orange is contrasted with the cool blueness of the ribbon of the pocket watch lying at the edge of the counter top. The watch is one of the symbols associated with the theme of vanitas, the passage of time and the vanity of worldly life – which are compared with eternal life; the motif of vanitas was frequently referenced in 17th century culture and painting.