Much of the art up to the time of the Renaissance clearly depicts stories and themes from Christianity and the classical world or the predictable vanities of the wealthy patrons who commissioned portraits but still life paintings are fundamentally different. Images of domestic objects arranged on a table, images that have fascinated many artists since the Renaissance, provide fewer obvious clues to the world view of those who created them.
While in this sense harder to decipher than images of historical events and allegorical figures, pictures of everyday objects, instruments and books are of particular interest because, their assembly was often motivated by the artist’s own interests. While there may be the rare still life that was commissioned by the state, the church, or a wealthy patron, most of them were driven by the market for the floral arrangement or displays of abundance and for illustrations of the elements, the senses or of cautionary moral symbolism. But a notable number of pictures were clearly projects of the artists themselves, of their undeniable fascination with the objects depicted and devoid of the religious or moral biases often found in their commissioned work. For this reason, this kind of still life often feels more personal than other forms. In many of them, one can sense the artist’s patient and intense search for the significance of his subject. The observer may adopt the challenge to find in the painting the world view, motivation, and sense-of-self that produced it.
To unravel some of the mystery inherent in the still life, I decided to emulate, as best I could in a different century and a different... [continues]
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