Still lifes often carried symbolic meanings for their original Dutch viewers. Here, the crowded display of fruit and insects testifies to the bounty of nature. Abraham Mignon’s virtuoso technique also reveals his desire to vie with the natural world and briefly halt time’s passage by fixing these objects in paint. The sheer variety of natural organisms still fascinates. But the fruit has begun to rot, and the once-mighty oak tree shows signs of blight. The stone in the foreground has fallen from a once-perfect building, and the arch in the right background crumbles. Butterflies and caterpillars, traditional symbols of transience, also allude to the impermanence of earthly things.
(Text courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, CC BY 3.0.)