The roots of our current obsession for artwork portraying lush blooms against dark backgrounds – the artistic inspiration for Fleurs de Villes - come from the Golden Age of Dutch painting.
Still life paintings in the 1600s by artists such as Jan van Huysum, Ambrosius Bosschaert and Rachel Ruysch depicted an exaggerated explosion of flowers, fruits, insects and other symbolic “vanitas” items including books, shells and skulls. The addition of a “vanitas” (moral message) such as a skull, for example, pointed to the brevity of life. A butterfly was a symbol of resurrection. The most expensive rare blooms (such as a prized variegated tulip) were always placed at the top of the arrangement.
These lush still-lifes showcased the artist’s skill in portraying light, texture, and contrasting tone with a sharp eye for realistic detail – all against a dark background for maximum impact. These weren’t accurate depictions of an existing arrangement – the flowers wouldn’t bloom naturally all at the same time - but the exquisite imagination of the artist.