This is not the picture I started out to paint. It took on a life of its own. I’m not sure where I came across the phrase on the bowl: finitum capax infiniti. I’m no Latinist. But I read it somewhere and looked it up. It means is we are capable of seeing what is infinite and eternal in things the are fragile and finite. I think that’s true and am reminded of that phrase every time I look at a still life.
Still life paintings depress some people, and I see why. The images of fruit and stemware remind them that real fruit rots and real stemware breaks. You can count on it. But the unreal painted images of fruit and stemware don’t break or rot. They just sit there in another world, and for me they seem to link what is fragile and temporary with what is permanent and eternal.
Here is another still life by a much better painter than I am: Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818). She made a speciality of still lifes. Most of her customers were guillotined during the French revolution including her friend and admirer Marie Antoinette, who was a witness at her wedding. But Anne kept out of sight and, against the odds, managed to live and paint again another day.