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The Cover
April 19, 2000

Roses and Tulips and Jasmine in a Glass With a Dragonfly and a Butterfly

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2000;283(15):1933. doi:10.1001/jama.283.15.1933

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."