Still Life with Fruits and Flowers

Still Life with Fruits and Flowers
Balthasar van der Ast (Dutch, 1593/4-1657)
c. 1630
Oil on panel 
16-1/4 x 29-1/2 in. (41.3 x 74.9 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

A seventeenth-century viewer would have delighted in the vivid display of motifs described with such care here by Balthasar van der Ast. The composition’s possible associations are as diverse as the motifs themselves. The four elements—earth, air, water and fire—are symbolized by the fruit, the flowers, the crayfish and shells and the fine china plate, respectively. Birth, death and rebirth, parts of the natural cycle of life, are signified by the spring and summer flowers and the autumn fruits. Fallen petals and drying leaves atop the cluster of grapes underscore the passing of time.

Some of the objects here would have been particularly admired by an educated, affluent audience. The Chinese porcelain plate was a much sought-after appointment in the Dutch patrician home, and only a well-to-do household could have afforded a bouquet of flowers, particularly one with tulips, in a beautiful thorn-prunt beaker. Those viewers with an interest in nature’s curiosities would have been rewarded not only with the depiction of shells but also with the artist’s detailed description of insects and the bright red crayfish. In this way, the panel functioned like a collector’s cabinet full of the rare, exotic and beautiful, conveying a sense of wealth and connoisseurship.


Van Saendonck-Dreesman Collection, The Netherlands.
[A. Brod, London, 1959].
[Kunsthandel Gebr. Douwes, Amsterdam, 1962].
[G. Cramer, The Hague, Holland];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

Image reproduction permission may be granted for scholarly or arts related commercial use. All image requests, regardless of their intended purpose, should be submitted via email. Requests can also be made by fax or mail.

Images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. Additional permission may be required.

Approved requests for the reproduction of an image will receive a contract detailing all fees and conditions of use of the image. Upon receipt of both the signed contract and full payment, the Office of Rights and Reproductions will provide the image. A complimentary copy of the published material must be provided to the Norton Simon Museum.

Please fill our our Online Reproduction Request Form or download the Application for Reproduction Permission PDF Form and submit it to the Office of Rights and Reproductions.

E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: (626) 449-6840 x 3300
Fax: (626) 796-4978