The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
Flower painting is to the Dutch and Flemish as the sonnet is to the
English, the essay to the French, perhaps even the haiku to the Japanese.
Second only to Scripture and the didactic poetry of Jacob Cats, flower painting
became a kind of illustrated guide to popular morality in the Low Countries
during the 17th and 18th centuries. It filled the gap in religious art left
by the iconoclasm of the post-Reformation period. It was a bit of truth—sometimes
a truth so obvious as to be often overlooked, such as "all things, no matter
how beautiful, humans included, must eventually die"—sugarcoated in
color and dished up not only to be palatable to the mind, but to delight the
senses as well. Although each flower and each insect, even dewdrops, were
parts of speech in the language of the painting, with their own meaning, the
overriding spiritual message was "Man is like a flower that blooms in the
morning and by the evening is gone."
Southgate MT. Roses and Tulips and Jasmine in a Glass With a Dragonfly and a Butterfly. JAMA. 2000;283(15):1933. doi:10.1001/jama.283.15.1933