Daniel Seghers’ stunning panel—his earliest known signed and dated painting—is remarkable for its realistic detail, from the transparent glass vase to dewdrops on the petals. But the painting is also a composition of deliberate artifice: the vase of flowers would be too top-heavy to stand on its own, and the flowers depicted would not all have been in bloom at the same time. The bouquet includes roses, a branch of orange blossoms, a splendid striped tulip, and four irises, each of a different hue. A butterfly and three caterpillars have apparently been brought inside with the cut flowers.
Seghers was a lay brother in the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church, and many of his floral paintings contain symbolic content related to his faith. Here, the flowers may refer to the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. For example, the iris is the flower of the Virgin and alludes to her as Queen of Heaven. Roses symbolize love, and the Virgin is sometimes referred to as the “rose without thorns.” Orange blossoms were associated with purity, and likewise, tulips could symbolize virginity.