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The Cover
May 20, 1998

Still Life

JAMA. 1998;279(19):1508. doi:10.1001/jama.279.19.1508

Just because the model does not fidget, nod off, or complain about the likeness in the finished product, or, just because the model may be as plain as a piece of bread or as ordinary as a glass of wine, it does not follow that painting still life requires less skill, insight, and ingenuity than painting, say, a princess's portrait or a magnificent landscape or a great battle scene. No one could have been more aware of this than the Dutch stilleven painters of the 17th century (nor any painter, for that matter, of any place or time who has tried to do still life). And no one, as a group, has excelled at the type as have the 17th-century Dutch painters. Appropriating to themselves a topic not considered grand enough for the painter hoping to win patronage or fame, they wrote the rules and set the standards that remain in effect nearly four centuries later for those who would follow. In the process they made still life not only respectable, but, in their hands, rarely equaled and never surpassed.

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