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Vase of Flowers
Belvedere, Andrea
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Belvedere, Andrea

Naples, 1652 - Naples, 1732

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Vase of Flowers

1694 - 1700. Oil on canvas.
Room 019

Towards the edges of two moulded stone shelves rest two bronze vases with broad decorated bases and slender stems embraced, in one case by a group of tritons (P550) and, in the other by, a group of minute cherubs that support the upper section like dynamic Atlanteans (P549). These bases bear prodigious bouquets that are skilfully arranged with contrasting textures and colours that generate a marvellous spray of plant life, the lavish design of which occupies almost the entire surfaces of the canvases. The light backgrounds in the lower parts of the works become progressively darker moving upwards, powerfully emphasising the multicoloured and grandiloquent flower arrangements, and obliging the viewer to appreciate the masterful volume and striking variety that exemplifies the period’s Baroque spirit, with its theatrical and fabulous effects and opulence.

These formidable, eminently attractive and spectacularly diverse bouquets must have been painted during the famous Neapolitan still-life painter’s stay in Madrid at the end of the seventeenth century, when the brilliance of Spain’s Siglo de Oro was fading as the Habsburg dynasty fell into decadence under its last, feeble sovereign, Charles II. At that time, Belvedere’s countryman Luca Giordano was busy painting his lavish scenes on the domes of palaces and religious buildings in Madrid and its environs, including the Monastery of San Lorenzo del El Escorial and Toledo Cathedral, as well as numerous easel works. Both artists represent the spirit of the High Baroque in their energetic exploitation of its many decorative aesthetic principles developed in the previous decades among its many practitioners in Italy and abroad.

These paintings exemplify the Belvedere’s best work at a time when he had attained a creative maturity worthy of better critical treatment than he was receiving. Belvedere is an artist overshadowed by the success of his better-known colleagues from the second half of the seventeenth century and the first third of the eighteenth. The works unquestionably draw on the Neapolitan and Roman traditions, but their lighter backgrounds and light, charming style clearly foreshadow eighteenth-century effects and sensibilities that would soon become the norm for floral fantasies in mural decorations and easel paintings. These were often set in harmonious, complex boiseries whose French taste became predominant in palatial residences and aristocratic mansions throughout Europe during the fruitful decades of the Enlightenment.

It is hardly surprising that Spanish inventories of both old and current collections include many paintings by Belvedere, as he worked in Spanish territories for several years. This would seem to indicate that his style was quite compatible with the late eighteenth-century taste for complex compositions, and excessive and intricate elements that culminated in the colossal altarpieces found at many religious centres. Belvedere’s works must have exerted considerable influence on Spanish art, and may even have surprised many artists who were less daring in their rendering of rather pompous floral compositions. His works later became a reference for many flower painters of the second half of the eighteenth century, who truly revitalised the genre, eschewing the sober austerity of many of the best known creations from the Siglo de Oro, before the triumph of neoclassical severity at the end of the Enlightenment.

Andrea Belvedere belonged to the fertile Neapolitan school of painting and studied with some of its distinguished exponents, including Giovanni Battista Ruoppolo (1626-1693), Paolo Porpora (1617-1673) and Abraham Brueghel (1631-1673), all of whom cultivated an acute observation of life, a powerful realism and strong chiaroscuro effects. As such, Belvedere stands out as the last and most exquisite representative of a tradition that produced superb still lifes and floral paintings.

Luna, J.J., Andrea Belvedere. 'Flowerpiece' En:. Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, p.190-193

Technical data

Related artworks

Vase of Flowers
Oil on canvas, 1694 - 1700
Belvedere, Andrea
Inventory number
Belvedere, Andrea
Vase of Flowers
1694 - 1700
Height: 151 cm; Width: 100 cm
Royal Collection (Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, piezas que siguen al casón, 1772, nº 897; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, pieza de librería que mira al norte, 1794, s. n.; Palacio Real, Madrid, pieza reservada junto a la de las máquinas, 1814-1818, s.n.).

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del siglo XVII: exposición conmemorativa del ciento cincuenta aniversario de la fundación del Museo del Prado, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Madrid, 1970, pp. 64.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura española de bodegones y floreros de 1600 a Goya, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1983, pp. 127.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 50-51.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Luna, J.J., Andrea Belvedere. 'Flowerpiece' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 190-193.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1106.
A.B. / 1106. Un florero. / Compañero al num. 1102. / Alto 5 pies, 5 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 7 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1106.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 550.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 550.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 599.

Inv. Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1772. Núm. 897.
Piezas que siguen al cason [...] {14749-14750} 896-897 / Unos jarrones de flores de vara y tres quartas de alto vara y quarta de ancho originales del Abate Verbedel Napolitano

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. s. n..
Pieza reservada junto a la de las máquinas [...] {21379} Dos varas largas de alto cinco cuartas de ancho, florero = A. B.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. s. n..
Pieza de Libreria que mira al Norte / [306] Dos de vara y dos tercias de alto, y cinco quartas de ancho: Dos jarrones de flores, á seiscientos reales cada uno AB ... 1200

Inscriptions +

A B [iniciales cruzadas, formando un anagrama].
Signed. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Luca Giordano in the Casón del Buen Retiro
21.02.2008 - 01.06.2008

Location +

Room 019 (On Display)

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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