CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The Kingdom of Flora

Exhibition: 17 October 2013 - 9 March 2014

Information by the organizers

The Rumyantsev Mansion, branch of the Museum of History of St. Petersburg shows a collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish flower still lifes. The exhibits have been drawn from the MODUS VIVENDI collection in Moscow
that has been assembled over the last twenty years.

Colorful wreaths of flowers could form a frame around a
figural composition glorifying the Virgin Mary, for example, or
remind us of Christ’s thorny path (a thorny rose or hyacinth). The
still life, like no other genre, also reveals the dual nature
of objects – that what we see is not always the true essence of the
thing. Already in the 16th century, Erasmus of Rotterdam mentions that
any thing has two faces, that are not always similar to each other.
From the works of this and other philosophers, we can talk about the
perception of life at the time and hence, the symbolic meaning
searched for in still life painting. However, this world is already
partly closed to the viewer of today because, depending on the
customer’s and artist’s wishes, one and the same flower could acquire
a different symbolic interpretation. For example, a tulip could
represent a too temporal enthusiasm for passing things; it could
symbolize love or rejection, or only a portrait of a concrete flower
commissioned by a breeder as a memento. Independently of the hidden
meaning behind each work, the viewer of every generation has the
opportunity to enjoy outstanding painting.

The MODUS VIVENDI collection can boast of several works by members of
the famous Breughel family – Jan Breughel II (1601-1678) and his son Jan
Pieter Brueghel (1628-1664), as well as paintings by their
contemporaries Gualterus Gysaerts (1649-1694) and Jan Philip van
Thielen (1618-1667). The work of Flemish still life painters,
especially those from Antwerp, can be seen over a relatively broad
time span because several of the masters, such as Jan Baptist
Bosschaert II (1667-1746), Gaspar Pieter Verbruggen II (1664-1730) and
Pieter Castells III (1684-1749) also worked in the early 18th century,
painting was more decorative and the execution of tiny details more

The Dutch still life masters are represented by the Utrecht painter
and botanical illustrator Alida Withoos (1659-1730) who worked in a
somewhat different manner and the Haarlem artist Jacoba Maria van
Nickelen (1680/1700-1749 ). It should be emphasized that 17th century
works by female painters are very rare.