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Jan van Os, Fruit, Flowers and a Fish

Key facts
Full title Fruit, Flowers and a Fish
Artist Jan van Os
Artist dates 1744 - 1808
Date made 1772
Medium and support Oil on mahogany
Dimensions 72.2 × 56.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by George Holt of Liverpool, 1892
Inventory number NG1380
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Fruit, Flowers and a Fish
Jan van Os

This extravagant celebration of textures, scents and tastes is far more than a naturalistic study. It’s high artifice – a picture of pure luxury. Jan van Os would probably have drawn his ideal arrangement and painted each element from sketches and drawings, yet everything appears real, as if you could touch it.

Grapes of every colour, white and purple plums and the rich scarlet of the redcurrants glisten against dark leaves. But these fruits aren't perfect: some are past their best or simply blemished. In the days before refrigeration, this would have been expected – and acceptable – in a picture. Like the fly, its transparent wings outlined on the peach, and the butterfly, tiptoeing delicately on a wheat stem, they may be symbols of the transience of life.

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