Diamonds Are Forever, Says a Jan Brueghel Bouquet

Jan Brueghel the Elder, A Lavish Still Life with Terracotta Vase, a Clump of Cyclamen, and Scattered Diamonds and Sapphires, 1605-7. Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp

The Getty is showing a spectacular Jan Brueghel the Elder still life of flowers. At lower right, where you might otherwise expect an insect or seashell, is a scattering of diamonds and sapphires. In Brueghel's time as now, Antwerp was a center of the diamond trade. Perhaps the message was, blossoms fade, but diamonds are forever. Yet the gems may also have alluded to the perception of botanical specimens as rare and costly commodities. Tulips had been introduced into the Netherlands by 1600, and a speculative market in tulip bulbs led to a collapse in 1637. Brueghel's pairing of tulips and gems prefigures today's visual trope of cryptocurrency as tangible gold coins.

The Brueghel is a loan from the Phoebus Foundation, which holds an extensive collection of Netherlandish art, Renaissance to contemporary. The Foundation's website says the painting will be on view at the Getty Center through April 14, 2023.

Of late the Getty has an amazing group of Flemish and Dutch loans, now including a magisterial de Heem still life from a private collection and nine Dutch paintings from LACMA's Edward and Hannah Carter collection.

Bust of Jacob van Reygersberg by Rombout Verhulst with a LACMA loan, Pieter Claesz' Still Life with Herring, Wine, and Bread


Anonymous said…
> LACMA's Edward and Hannah Carter collection.

I wonder how the old-time benefactors of the museum, including the Ahmansons, Chandler-Frost and Bing Arnold, would have dealt with what Michael Govan and Peter Zumthor are now doing? They perhaps would have pushed for more candor and accountability, probably encouraged more fiscal responsibility too.

However, since another shred-and-bulldoze option was being promoted by Andrea Rich and Rem Koolhaas back in 2001, ripping everything down has been in the cards for LACMA no matter what.

The way that Islamic art was squirreled away on the top floor of the Ahmanson building or the Pacific Island collection was caught in that building's low-ceiling, tiled-floor "basement" always had an admittedly ad-hoc quality about it. But other benefactors and trustees still might have prodded for more financial accountability.