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In paintings in the National Gallery flowers tend to appear mainly in two contexts: as symbols, and as the subject of still lifes.

Flowers form a significant part of Christian iconography; an example which often appears in paintings is the lily, which is associated with purity and thus an attribute of the Virgin (see Lippi's 'Annunciation').

In a mythological context they are often related to the spring; Rembrandt painted his wife in the guise of the goddess Flora; she clasps a large bouquet ('Saskia van Uylenburgh in Arcadian Costume').

In the Netherlands, particularly in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, flower-pieces were a popular genre and a number of artists, such as van Huysum, specialised in painting them.