Still Life: The Five Senses with Flowers

Still Life: The Five Senses with Flowers
Jacques Linard (French, 1600-1645)
Oil on canvas 
21-1/2 x 26-3/4 in. (54.6 x 68 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation, from the Estate of Jennifer Jones Simon 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Not on View

In Paris, Linard associated with a group of Protestant artists who specialized in still-life painting. Among them were some of the leading painters in this genre, including Louise Moillon and Paul Liegeois. Although his style reveals the influence of the Flemish school, particularly Jan Brueghel, his works are also imbued with the elegance characteristic of French painting in this genre.

The allegory of the five senses was perfectly suited to the symbolic intent of 17th-century still lifes. In these emblematic arrangements, one or more objects signify each faculty. The flower arrangement connotes smell; sight pertains to the mirror, and taste to the pomegranate, lemon and cup of wine. An ivory flageolet, or flute, represents hearing, whereas touch is indicated by the playing cards, dice and shaker.

The painting’s emblematic possibilities are not limited to the senses, however, as sophisticated viewers would have recognized additional meanings. Card-playing and other games, as well as music, were considered transient pleasures. The flowers in the precious Chinese bowl might call attention to the passing of time and the fragility of youth. The mirror, which frequently appears in still lifes (its Latin root is mirari, or “to gaze"), likely underscores the theme of vanity. By extension, if one reads the red wine as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and death, the birch box as a symbol of his sepulcher and the split pomegranate as a reference to his resurrection, the composition betokens the Passion of Christ.


Private Collection, Marseille, by 1940, taken (with its pendent, now Museé des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg) by Germans during WWII occupation, and returned to;
M. Wuester after conclusion of WWII.
R. Payelle, Paris, by 1957 until 1962.
(sale, Paris, Palais Galliera, 23 November 1972, lot 43, as Nature morte, les cinq sens, to);
[Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York];
[E. V. Thaw/Apollo Arts Ltd., Zug, Switzerland, sold 1979 to];
Norton Simon, by bequest to;
Jennifer Jones Simon Art Trust, to;
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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