HAMEN, Juan van der
(b. 1596, Madrid, d. 1631, Madrid)

Still Life with Flowers and a Dog

c. 1625-30
Oil on canvas, 228 x 95 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The pair of paintings, the Still-Life with Flowers and a Dog, and the Still-Life with a Puppy formed part of the interior decoration of Jean de Croy's palace in Madrid. This Flemish nobleman, Count of Soire and Captain of the Flemish Guard of Archers, was also the owner of Van der Hamen's Offering to Flora. The paintings, which were probably commissioned by De Croy (d. 1638), hung unframed on either side of the doorway of a room that led on to the picture gallery. Here, they probably served as illusionistic extensions of real space, perhaps by reproducing the actual floor of the room. The dog and its playful puppy may well have portrayed actual animals owned by the patron. The theme of the pictures is related to the culture of aristocratic hospitality, that was such a necessary part of the refined lifestyle of the occupants of the house. In one of the pictures, a wine cooler stands on the floor and the side tables covered with green velvet damask display sweetmeats and a glass ewer with aloja, an aromatic drink popular at the time, while the clock shows that it is just before five o'clock, an appropriate time for such treats.

The major motifs in these pictures are two large gilt ormolu and glass vases with floral arrangements. These vessels represent a type of luxury decorative object that suited the status of Van der Hamen s patron, and the flowers they contain stand out for the copiousness and variety of their blooms. They doubtlessly evoke real arrangements of flowers that formed a part of the rich decor of Soire's house. However, these were not painted from life and are artificial images in representing blooms in such perfect condition and in bringing together flowers that bloom at different times of the year.

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