Fruit, Flowers and a Fish

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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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.

The National Gallery, London



Fruit, Flowers and a Fish




Oil on mahogany


H 72.2 x W 56.7 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Presented by George Holt of Liverpool, 1892

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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