Sumptuous Symbolism

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As maximalism and embracing excess only grows more popular it seems appropriate to draw inspiration from the art of Dutch Golden Age, a time where paintings of decadence and opulence were overloaded with objects and symbolism alike. International trade brought about the rise of the rich merchant class who had access to luxuries from across the globe and the subsequent demand for exotic and expensive flowers eventually changed the face of the art world. Vanitas compositions were a type of still life painting that were laden with symbolic objects and the emergence of cultivated flowers as status symbols created a whole new genre of symbolic still lifes: sumptuous bouquets of flowers. 

These figurative florals often had multiple meanings, including the symbolism of the bouquet as a whole and the symbolism of individual features and flowers. Even the individual flowers themselves could have multiple meanings, sometimes religious and sometimes secular. Symbolism could be biblical, historical, or even borrowed from mythology across the globe from Greece to Egypt to China; an iris, for example, could both represent a message from beyond the grave or the Virgin Mary, even simultaneously. Where wilted flowers symbolise death and decay, buds can symbolise emerging beauty, or the biggest and most beautiful bloom sat proudly at the top of the composition symbolised hope for redemption. 

These striking symbolism-rich still lifes are full of interest, intrigue and many hidden meanings.