Flower Study

Jan Baptiste, Previously attributed to;  Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, After; 

This is one of the paintings in our collection. It was made in Holland in mid 17th century.
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Object Detail

About the Work
“This absolute treasure has held my fascination since I first saw it on display a few years ago. The flowers of course are exquisite, made all the more dramatic against an unlit background, which itself holds many secrets. While most of the flowers are bathed in light, there are parrot tulips, carnations and Dutch irises waiting to be discovered in the shadows. It makes me question so many things. How did Baptiste study his flowers? Did he sketch them first? Did he dissect them? Did he wait for them to bloom for botanical correctness? If only paintings could talk! The undulating background landscape is something of a conundrum; it would seem perhaps unlikely that the artist saw this from his Amsterdam location considering the completely flat terrain of the Netherlands. The understated urn with its Bacchus mask relief appears to be classically Roman, so perhaps Baptiste had been inspired by a trip to Italy to paint such a landscape?”
- Tracy Byatt 'My Choice' March 2021

This painting '...has traditionally been attributed to a little-known Dutch artist called Jan Baptiste, who was active in Amsertdam from 1629 - 1640. The work bridges the more straightforward compositions of the 17th-century Bosschaert family of Dutch flower painters, in which simple arrangements of flowers stand against a light background, and the more complex arrangements favoured by the French Baroque artist Jean Baptiste Monnoyer (c.1634 - 1699), who often signed his work Baptiste. Monnoyer's work has a brownish palette which is very similar to this painting. However, so many flower painters imitated each other that attribution can be somewhat difficult.' Mary Kisler (2010) 'Angels & Aristocrats. Early European Art in New Zealand Public Collections', Auckland: Random House NZ

In Holland during the Seventeenth-Century, and in the wake of the Reformation, still life painting was immensely popular. The Reformation was a schism within Western Christianity in the Sixteenth Century which saw the creation of the Protestant Church. This new religious movement striped traditional Catholic ornamentation and portraiture from Churches and homes, thus depriving artists of their main source of commissions. To counter this artists’ turned to painting flowers and interiors, infusing them with symbolic meaning. Still life paintings (images of fruit, flowers and inanimate objects) often evoke death and the impermanence of life, the beauty of a flower in the process of dying as it wilts in a vase. Some flowers are tightly coiled buds ready to bloom, or are vibrant with their heads full, while others are drooping or falling to the table below. Flowers themselves have strong symbolism and allegorical meanings. In this painting we see a vast array of blooms, including lilies which traditionally mean purity and roses which in the Seventeenth-Century symbolised beauty. With its exquisite detail this masterful work of art by Jan Baptiste is an example of still life painting at its finest. What sets this painting apart from other works of its ilk is the inclusion of a background landscape. A still life is almost universally painted as an interior scene and the blending of art genres makes Jan Baptiste’s Flower Study all the more fascinating.
- Chronicle article, Sarah McClintock, April 2013
Image 1158 x 950mm
Frame 1280 x 1076 x 65mm
oil on canvas
Still life painting of flowers. Showing flowers spilling out of an urn with either a window or a lanscape painting in the background.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Gift of Mrs P. Riddiford, 1964.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
07 Apr 1964



1. Dutch
2. French
3. Flemish
Accession Number:

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