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Jan van Os, Fruit and Flowers in a Terracotta Vase

Key facts
Full title Fruit and Flowers in a Terracotta Vase
Artist Jan van Os
Artist dates 1744 - 1808
Date made 1777-8
Medium and support Oil on mahogany
Dimensions 89.1 × 71 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Miss V. Churchman in memory of her sister I.N. Churchman, 1988
Inventory number NG6520
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Fruit and Flowers in a Terracotta Vase
Jan van Os

This profusion of luscious fruit and flowers, just past their best, may be a celebration of nature, though it’s anything but natural. The pineapple balanced precariously on top of a tower of flowers is enough to place it in the realms of fantasy. The whole picture looks as if it has been blown together by the wind and is about to topple over.

Van Os drifts pink roses up the spine of the arrangement to a white tulip that’s losing its red streaked petals. This type of tulip – the Semper Augustus – was, like the pineapple, highly prized, even when dying.

The microscope, a new invention, made it possible for artists to paint the insects in their pictures with great accuracy. Here, a fly promenades up the stem of a deep red rose and a painted lady butterfly perches in the shelter of a tulip petal.

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