Flowers in a Glass Beaker

Peter Binoit (German, 1590/93-1632/39)
c. 1620
Oil on copper 
12-1/4 x 9 in. (31.1 x 22.9 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
Not on View

Self-reflection was an abiding preoccupation in the early seventeenth century among Catholics and Protestants alike, and the still life was ideally suited to stimulate and focus such contemplation in a non-narrative way. Though the flowers, especially the fashionable tulip, were treasured as exemplars of precious objects meant to delight, they also served as carriers of symbolic meaning intended to edify. This lovely composed bouquet, enlivened with a few flying and crawling creatures, contains symbols associated with the brevity of life, preparation for the afterlife and the promise of an eternity in heaven.

Read in this way, the fallen sprigs allude to decay and transience, underscored by the fact that the flowers in Binoit’s bouquet bloom briefly and in different seasons. The snail and fly signify laziness and sin. These negative references are balanced by other motifs that hold the promise of paradise. The iris is a symbol of Mary and of hope. The red carnation customarily refers to the Passion of Christ. The butterfly embodies the soul, since its maturation and emergence from the cocoon is a sort of resurrection. Likewise, the dragonfly, which is born without wings, stands for the redeemed soul.


Count Camille du Chastel de la Howarderie, 1873, by inheritance to;
Count Albert du Chastel de la Howarderie (1857-1946), to his daughter;
Thérèse du Chastel de la Howarderie (1889-1924), who in 1912 married Marcel, Marquis de Castellane-Esparron (1884-1951), Brussels, by descent to;
Albert de Castellane-Esparron (1924-1991), presumably still in 1960;
[P. de Boer, Switzerland, by 1956 (possibly on consignment from Castellane); consigned to P. de Boer, Amsterdam, 1963; sold 1963/1964 to];
Becker Collection, Dortmund, sold 1973 through;
[G. Cramer, The Hague, to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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