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Cut Flowers

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image of Nuncius

Designations of still life as natura morta, nature morte, naturaleza muerta are based on a gross misunderstanding. We are only beginning to fully understand how masterfully the genre played with the supposed boundaries between the living and dead. It is above all floral still life painting after 1600, in which the intermediate state between life and death is centrally thematized. Where do cut plants actually derive their mysterious liveliness? Throughout its history the study of botany focused on the reality and mystery of plant metabolism. As scientists fiercely debated the nutritional aspect of floral still life in the horizon of its precarious liveliness, Dutch painters experimented with making visible the mysterious interiority of vases. In this way, still life painters modelled the larger epistemic problem of plant nutrition, self-preservation, and life not in terms of a positive answer, or hypothesis, but as an enigmatic field, an open question.

Affiliations: 1: Universität Hamburg, Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar


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