Jan van Huysum, Vase with Flowers, c. 1718-20

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(piano music playing) Rachel: So we are DulwichPicture Gallery in London, and we are standing infront of Jan van Huysum's Vase with Flowers, from about 1720.

It's quite a vase.

It's quite a lot of flowersthat we've got here.

Pippa: Yeah, it's bombasticcolors spilling out, overflowing, isn't it? It's not a neat flower arrangement that your grandmother mighthave slaved over, is it? Rachel: Little sprigsgoing off every which way, and flowers leaning, and lots of contrast betweenkind of the bright white and light-colored flowers, and then these really deep shadowed, kind of darker-colored flowers.

Pippa: And the painting, I mean, when standing here in front of it, really holds up under a microscope.

I mean, it's like we'relooking through a microscope.

All the detail you have on the leaves.

You have a leaf here with a bee on it, and there's a raindrop.

You look at the raindrop, it's magnifying tiny linesof the leaf underneath it.

You've got ladybirds, butterflies, all that, just the activity, and the velvety, velvetytexture you feel on that tulip.

Rachel: Yeah, you do feellike if you touched it, it would feel like a real tulip.

And imagining howpainstaking it must have been to paint that with thesetiny, tiny little brushes, you know, one and two hairs.

Pippa: Yeah, it must havebeen just a few more, and it's interesting as well because although it's just flowers, there's definitely something else going on in the picture here, I think.

If you look down here,we have a bird's nest.

And in there, we've got eggs, the beginning of life.

Rachel: You can followthis idea of the life cycle because there are eggsin this bird's nest, which keeps kind of drawing the eye with this incredible attention to detail, and then kind of hiding in the flowers, there's this little nakedboy who is, I think, supposed to be paintedon the vase, probably, Pippa: Yeah, it looks like he's running around theback of the vase there, doesn't he? Going on from there, we have, like, birth and the beginning of youth, and looking at all thearrangement of flowers, they're not all in full blooms.

Some are budding.

Some are spring, coming to life.

Some are in bombastic bloom, like this big red chrysanthemum, or whatever it is in the middle there, and then further away,the ones in the back, in the shade are in the shadow, the sunset of life.

The leaves are fallingoff, they're browning.

Rachel: Yeah.

Pippa: And so it does seemto represent the cycle.

Rachel: Maybe it's just me, but my eye does keep justcoming back to that nest, and after death, that cycle renews itself and starts again with the eggs again.

Pippa: So you've got the dead twigs and then the birth.

Rachel: Yeah.

thinking about the flowers, I don't know if all these flowers would necessarily be in bloomat the same time in a year.

Rachel: Yeah.

I thinkthat's sort of typical of Dutch still-life flowerpainting at the time, which is including this ideaof the cycle of the seasons, mirroring the cycle ofbirth and death and life.

Pippa: And the detail.

Just if you had this on your wall at home, you just keep comingback to it, wouldn't you? You'd never get bored with it.

There's just more and moredetail in there you can find.

Each time I look, I see a butterfly, another little insectburrowing around in there, and these red ones at the top, I mean, they look like Chinese lanterns.

Rachel: And I do thinkthis is a really good one to play scavenger hunt with and find something new every time because you can keep lookingfor more and more detail, and just keep kind ofdigging in deeper and deeper.

(piano music playing).

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