BRUEGHEL, Jan the Elder
(b. ca. 1568, Brussel, d. 1625, Antwerpen)
Wood, 125 x 96 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Unlike Bosschaert, Brueghel did not use landscapes as a background. Rather, protruding upwards from a flower pot, his myriads of flowers are set against a pitch-dark background, so that the contrast gives them a luminous quality. While Bosschaert preferred more cultivated flowers - rather costly at the time - and only depicted a few flowers of the fields and meadows among them, it is precisely these delicate plants that gave Brueghel the idea for 'tapestry' of flowers. Indeed, there is such an abundance of different species that they often defeat identification - over 130 kinds have been counted up to now. It is indeed a tapestry, as all the blossoms seem to crowd towards the front, just as in a two-dimensional space.
Brueghel's bouquets always build up from relatively small flowers at the bottom to increasingly larger ones at the top, completely against all our current aesthetic 'laws' of compositional gravity. The picture is dominated by a long-stemmed crown imperial, like a real crown. Below are some blue fleurs-de-lis, flanked by white lilies on the left and the red umbel of a peony. The centre is occupied by various kinds of tulips, which were also given special attention by Bosschaert.
Furthermore, Brueghel also included strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in his bouquet. This is because, right until modern times, no fundamental difference was made between decorative flowers and other flowers. Strawberries, for example, which blossom and bear fruit at the same time, were therefore generally included among flowers. Strawberry blossoms were regarded as flowers of paradise, as the food of children who had died prematurely and as symbols of the Virgin Mary.