(b. 1590, Antwerpen, d. 1661, Antwerpen)

Floral Wreath with Madonna and Child

Oil on copper, 197,5 x 79,5 cm
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent

Religious flower still-lifes are a special category, first developed by the Fleming Daniel Seghers, a pupil of Jan Brueghel the Elder. While Dutch paintings of flowers, particularly tulips, clearly showed a tendency towards secularization (with noticeable emphasis on the economic and aesthetic value of flowers rather than their religious significance), Seghers tried to recover their spiritual symbolism, in accordance with the counter-reformational aims of the Jesuit order. They are set against dark backgrounds of cartouches or niches in shades of brown, with floral wreaths in glowing colours climbing up like garlands. Instead of being illuminated from outside, the wreaths seem to have a luminosity of their own.

Seghers generally had the Madonna painted in relief by some artist colleague (in this case by Cornelis Schut and J. van Thielen) before surrounding it with flowers and/or fruit. Thus his pictorial concept served to emphasize its character as a religious object, without any real presence of Mary or Jesus. They were devotional pictures, intended to confirm the practice of church worship, communicated through the illusionist reproduction of the religious object itself. It was not the artist's intention to produce a true-to-life fictitious reality that would enable the believer or viewer to bypass the Church and to enter into devout communication.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.