Among bouquets, bunches of flowers and fruit, arranged in niches or on table tops, outdoor scenes, containing a rich variety of plant and animal life depicted after nature, there only exist a few richly decorated garlands of flowers and fruit. These paintings display a great virtuosity and special technique of interplay of vivid colours, often mixed with the hidden meaning of vanity so typical of the time. In a dramatic manner Mignon approaches this so-called cartouche with a centre piece in front of an illusionary architectural background closely to the spectator's eye under sharp light in order to study the botanical varieties and reflect upon the allegorical tradition of the cycle of life.
While other cartouche paintings show St Mary and the Child or stay blank in the centre, this portrait retains questions unsolved until today. The young female figure wears an antique-looking dress in golden ochre, a white chemise and a blue cape profusely swinging behind her. The belt and diadem in her hair with precious stones give her the appearance of a mythical, allegorical and/or noble background. A serpent creeping from underneath a basket of flowers has bitten her right wrist as two tiny drops of blood testify. The black servant to her right combines the Baroque illustration of the mythical legend with the current trend of Dutch portraits of wealthy ladies. In respect to Mignon and his Calvinist thought, one certainly might assume a compromise. Perhaps he executed the commissioner's personal wish of the lady of his heart in Cleopatra's disguise.
This is a rare example of the prominent Baroque painter Abraham Mignon in Spanish museums. The artist was born in a family of Calvinist, French speaking merchants from the Southern Netherlands. He lived in Utrecht, one of the affluent cities of art and art trade. In 1669 he joined the St Luke's Guild and encountered Jan Davidsz de Heem whose studio Mignon might have taken over in 1672. When he died he left an extensive oeuvre, to be found in European and overseas collections today. [M.K.N.]
Capolavori dal Museo di Bellas Artes di Bilbao. [Cat. exp.]. Roma : Leonardo-De Luca, 1991, pp. 52-53, n. º 25.
Juan J. Luna. La Pintura Holandesa del Siglo de Oro. La escuela de Utrecht. Madrid; Bilbao; Barcelona : Banco Bilbao Vizcaya, 1993, pp. 206-207.
Xesqui Castañer. "Algunos ejemplos visualizadores de la vida cotidiana del siglo XVII holandés a través de las pinturas del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao"en Kobie : bellas artes, nº 9. Bilbao : Diputación Foral de Bizkaia = Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia, 1992-1993, pp. 181-189.
Xesqui Castañer. Pinturas y pintores flamencos, holandeses y alemanes en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao : Fundación Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa, 1995, pp. 244-247.
Magdalena Kraemer-Noble. "Lore-girnalda, Abraham Mignon = Guirnalda de flores, de Abraham Mignon = Garland of Flowers by Abrahan Mignon" en B'08 : Buletina = Boletín = Bulletin, nº 4.
Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederretako Museoa, 2009, pp. 195-207.
Magdalena Kraemer-Noble. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederretako Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), p. 76, n.º 54, ad vocem.