1622; Oil on panel, 49.5 x 81.3 cm; North Carolina Museum of Art, NC, USA
The success of the Dutch in overseas exploration and trade fueled their interest in collecting the rare and exotic. In this early example of a Dutch still life, the motifs are spread across the tabletop to give each an equal emphasis. Displayed are a Chinese bowl and plate, seashells, a tulip and other flowers, fruits, and insects. The shells are depicted with such exactitude that they can be identified as species from the East and West Indies and Africa. The painter followed the convention of including tiny creatures throughout the composition as reminders of the transitory nature of life (vanitas). The fragile butterfly and the destructive grasshopper, like the fruit and flowers, enjoy only a brief existence.