Coleman was a prominent American expatriate artist who lived in Rome following the Civil War. In 1883, a writer for the "Roman News" described Coleman’s studio as “a scene from a fairy play [filled with] antique tapestries and medieval paintings and brass lamps and rich oriental rugs, which the magician Coleman has managed to bring together.”
This painting fuses European tabletop still-life traditions with Asian objects and aesthetics. The vase documents the vogue for antique blue-and-white china that entranced artists such as James McNeill Whistler. The flowers, silhouetted against a silk textile, recall the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement known as ikebana (“arranged flower”), or kado (“the way of flowers”). Coleman’s composition epitomizes the aspirations and achievements of the Aesthetic Movement, which embraced the philosophy of “art for art’s sake” and promoted the beautiful as an ideal in
all aspects of life.