Tomás Yepes, Spanish, ca. 1610 - 1674
Four Vases of Flowers in a Niche, ca. 1660
Oil on canvas
47 × 58 in. (119.4 × 147.3 cm)
X 501

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Although little is known about the Spanish painter Tomás Yepes (sometimes spelled Hiepes), a number of his monumental still lifes survive, and he appears to have been a dominant figure in 17th-century Valencia, where he lived. His canvases are characterized, as this one is, by symmetrically staged, abundant arrangements of fruits, birds, game, pastries, insects, and flowers. Four blue-and-white vases full of flowers are aligned in a single row along a shelf set into an arched niche. The niche creates a dark background, a typical device in Spanish still lifes, that helps the colorful subjects stand out and allows one to identify the flowers more clearly. The two larger central pots contain red, white, and pink carnations, while the smaller pots to the left and right contain white tuberoses and red nasturtiums, respectively. White and purple pansies grow at the foot of the nasturtiums. Amongst the plants and resting on the wall of the niche, Yepes added several butterflies, a motif favored by still-life painters for their delicate appearance. As is customary in Yepes’s work, he contrasted the natural beauty of the flowers and butterflies with that of manufactured objects. Here, the artist takes care to delineate each of the porcelain vessels’ surfaces and braided handles with precision, rendering them similar in overall style but distinct in detail.