Detail of “Madame Moulliere” Image © Ann Carrington
In The Netherlands in the 17th Century, a Golden Age was in full swing. The economy of the Dutch Republic, as it was then known, was flourishing as Antwerp and other ports became important hubs for the commercial shipping trade, importing and exporting textiles, spices, and metals, and the cities’ populations swelled. Elaborately detailed oil paintings depicting food on the table or incredible flower arrangements were popular additions to wealthy merchants’ homes, yet a more ominous genre of still-life painting also emerged amid this period of immense growth.
Known as Vanitas, the paintings brim with symbolism intended to emphasize the futility of earthly pleasures and the pointlessness of seeking wealth, power, and glory. When British artist Ann Carrington visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, she described in Architectural Digest that “looking at those pictures of half-consumed food and fading flowers, I realized that one of the only things that could have survived to today was the silverware, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to try to make something out of that?’” The works in her Bouquets series (previously) combine hundreds of kitchen utensils into extravagant floral sculptures.