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Flowers in a Gilt Tazza, c. 1620

Jan Brueghel the Younger

Flemish, 1601-1678
Oil on panel
21-15/16 x 16-7/8 in. (55.7 x 42.9 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1972.13.P
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

This painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger demonstrates the exquisite and meticulous style that fed the growing appetite of seventeenth-century patrons for still lifes. The challenge of rendering such varied and complex natural forms, as well as the ornate tazza, demanded extraordinary technical skill. The gilt tazza, for example, is frequently depicted in Baroque painting holding wine or such delicacies as biscuits or candied fruits. It presents a challenge to the artist to render the circular form, the astonishing details of the goldsmith’s work and the lustrous finish, all of which Brueghel has handled with confidence, layering thin strokes of yellow over darker gold to suggest the cup’s reflective surfaces.

To delineate the mass of delicate flowers, however, Brueghel has employed a closer handling, so that his technique is almost invisible, but not quite. Netticheyt, or neatness, describes this style of painting, which complements the microscopic detail of the dainty, vibrant flowers displayed in the tazza. The artist completes his tour de force with two butterflies, a ladybug and drops of water on the shelf, calling attention to his skill at trompe l’oeil.

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