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Dutch Painting

Three Medlars with a Butterfly

Adriaen Coorte
c. 1705
Oil on paper on panel, 27 x 20 cm.
Private collection
Three Medlars with a Butterfly, Adriaen Coorte

Adriaen COORTE
Places and dates of birth and death unknown. Working in Middleburg c. 1685–c.1707

The very modesty of Coorte's pictures has led them to be overlooked. His reputation has not been helped by the fact that no information has turned up about his career; his period of activity has been reconstructed from the dates on his pictures. All his surviving work is of still life, which is limited to the depiction of shells, gooseberries, red currants, medlars, peaches and asparagus. Occasionally and unexpectedly he paints a butterfly hovering over the isolated elements in his pictures. It is possible that these butterflies-usually of the prosaic Cabbage White variety may have some allegorical significance. Transience and the mutability of all things are the usual interpretations given to their presence. His works are always small and carefully painted. The Middleburg of his time was relatively isolated and his personal way of seeing cannot have been popular elsewhere. He has been forgotten for three centuries.

Christopher Wright, The Dutch Painters: 100 Seventeenth Century Masters, London, 1978

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