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Louise Moillon is best known for images such as “Bowl of Lemons and Oranges on a Box of Wood Shavings and Pomegranates.” The composition’s elegant simplicity complements her technique—she masterfully rendered the distinctive textures of the fruit, leaves, wooden box, and water droplets, giving the painting an almost photographic quality.

This method of illusionism, known as trompe l’oeil (fool the eye), was a highly prized quality in 17th-century painting. Moillon used devices such as the open pomegranate, which hangs slightly over the ledge, to create the impression that the space in the painting is shared with the viewer. The tactile quality of the lemons and oranges reinforces this illusion, as does the extension of the ledge to the edges of the picture plane, a common motif in Moillon’s still lifes.

Based on similar, signed paintings, this piece was probably executed by Moillon in the 1630s.

Details

  • Title: Bowl of Lemons and Oranges on a Box of Wood Shavings and Pomegranates
  • Creator: Louise Moillon
  • Date: ca. 1630s
  • artist profile: Louise Moillon was a pioneer in the development of still-life painting in France during the 17th century, specializing in arrangements of fruit. Like many women artists of the time, Moillon came from a family of artists, in which she was exposed to the techniques of oil painting from an early age. Her father and stepfather were painters as well as art dealers, and her brother Isaac was one of the earliest members of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Born and raised in Paris, Moillon lived in the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, an area of Paris that was an enclave of Protestant refugees from the southern Netherlands. Among these expatriates were artists who brought with them their tradition of tabletop still-life painting. Moillion, also a Protestant, was a leading member of this group, and with them developed her sober and dignified style featuring arrangements of fruit and flowers. Moillon received lavish praise from her contemporaries and had several prominent patrons. Despite this, she seems to have taken a break from painting between the early 1640s and the 1670s. Most scholars believe that this was due to her increasing domestic duties after her marriage in 1640. Moillon and her husband, Etienne Girardot, had at least three children together.
  • Physical Dimensions: w24.5 x h15.75 in (Without frame)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • Medium: Oil on panel

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