Flowers and Beetles
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Hoffmann, Hans
German, 1582
Gouache with white chalk over black chalk on vellum
12 5/8 x 15 1/4 in.

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In the late 1400s, northern European artists began to study and draw plants and animals with a greater interest in accuracy. Although showing the uniqueness of each of these specimens was undoubtedly important to Hans Hoffmann, he equally tried to portray the individual beauty of each flower and insect. He placed the peony, two species of irises, an amaryllis, a may beetle, and a june bug in an attractive arrangement on the page. He drew the delicate forms carefully and added lush color in a palette of green, blue, and red. He used plain black chalk to represent the shadow cast by the beetle's body, illusionistically raising the beetle's legs off the ground with this trompe-l'oeil effect.

Hoffmann may have intended this arrangement of nature studies to be hung as a painting, since it was listed as such in the archives of its original owner and it remained in a frame until well into the 1800s. Scholars consider this one of the first examples of still life painting.