(b. 1566, Olomouc, d. 1638, Frankfurt am Main)

Dessert Still-Life

Oil on wood, 22 x 28 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The arrangement of various dessert to form a spiritual scenery, commented in detail in connection with Still-Life with Bread and Confectionary (Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt), can also be found in other still-lifes by Flegel. His small-format Dessert Still-Life is dominated by the contrast between a parrot and a mouse, representing the principles of good and evil, respectively.

The mouse is nibbling at the sweets and has already opened a walnut, which, according to St Augustine, is a symbol of Christ, the shell pointing to the wooden cross and the sweet fruit to Christ's divinity. Confectionery made of crystallized sugar, nuts, figs and raisins, some in a costly Chinese bowl and some outside it, represent spiritual principles which are being guarded, as it were, by the green-feathered parrot sitting on the far edge of the bowl. The religious context is further emphasized by the grapes and the wine glass, and indeed by the carnation. From the late Middle Ages onwards theologians saw carnations as a symbol of Christ's death on the cross, because of the nail-shaped form of petals and fruit. Furthermore, the coins at the front are probably another reference to the Passion, reminding us of Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.