An opulent display of fruit, flowers, and precious objects takes center stage in this painting by the Flemish artist Frans Snyders. He is considered one of the greatest masters of still life painting, a category of art that specializes in the skillful rendering of quietly appealing scenes of inanimate objects to produce a decorative and rhythmical composition. Snyders’s painting can be interpreted as an allegory of nature. The freshly cut flowers may refer to the brevity and passing nature of life; the tiny knight perched atop the golden chalice on the left is probably a reference to “the Christian soldier”; and the grapes are often seen as a symbol of the wine used in the Eucharist, and hence of Christ’s blood.
Snyders’s father was the keeper of a well-known Antwerp inn favored by artists. Following a thorough apprenticeship, Snyders was made a junior member of the Antwerp painters’ guild at the age of 23 and became a regular member seventeen years later. In 1608 he went to Italy, the obligatory tour of duty of any young artist, and returned to Antwerp after 15 months. Upon his death, Snyders was a respected and distinguished painter who left a valuable estate, including an important art collection.
“He painted glass! I never imagined anyone could capture clear glass in an oil painting.” – Tim, age 44