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HIERONYMUS GALLE THE ELDER (1625 - 1679) Madonna in a flower garland
Oil on canvas 78 x 68 cm This oil painting depicts an ornamented flower garland with the portrait of the Virgin in the centre. The numerous and colourful varieties of flowers and tonalities are in contrast with the devotional portrait in trompe l’œil and grey scale. The garland is a genre of still life connected to the visual imagery of the Counter-Reformation movement, which influenced enormously the Flemish Jan Brueghel the Elder. The first recorded owner of this type of image was Federico Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan. In a letter of 1608, the artist states: “I am very busy with the little painting of a garland of flowers; and in it, according to the instructions of His Eminence, I am going to paint a Madonna.” The concept of immaculate is indeed evoked in the depiction of the flower reinforcing the central figure of the Virgin “in magno aliquo splendore sedente” (enthroned in a great splendour), as suggested by Cardinal Borromeo. Furthermore, both the Madonna in a Flower Garland by Rubens and Jan Brueghel, at the Prado and the Bayerischen Staatsgemäldesammlungen attest to this Marian iconography. Hieronymus Galle the Elder was a Flemish painter specialising in still life. Galle is known for collaborating with his fellow painter Cornelis Schut I (1597-1655) in religious scenes.