Abraham Mignon’s Still Life with Fruit, Fish, and a Nest

Dutch Master Abraham Mignon and Thanksgiving Traditions

As we think of Thanksgiving Traditions, we will take a look at German still life painter Abraham Mignon’s renditions of plenty. We will explore the different elements of still life works and the life of the artist to give us a fuller understanding of the genre itself.  We will begin by explaining how his still life paintings fit into Thanksgiving Traditions, who this artist was, define what still life painting is, and where you can see Abraham Mignon’s artwork.

How his paintings fit into Thanksgiving Tradtions

Still Life with Fruit, Fish, and a Nest, c. 1675
Still Life with Fruit, Fish, and a Nest, c. 1675 courtesy National Gallery of Art

The work includes a dark forest backdrop that takes attention away from the stone archway and moves the viewer’s focus to a wicker basket on a stump. The basket is overflowing with fruits and vegetables while a fishing rod leans against the stump. Next to the fishing rod, we see a bait box and a bunch of caught fish. Just above the bait box, a bird’s nest holding eggs rests in a low branch.

Mignon’s use of shadow and light is complemented by the richness and range of color as well as incredible detail of form. He also includes the allegory of the life cycle with the eggs in the nest alluding to birth. The flora and fruits represent life maturing, and the stump signifies old age. Ultimately, the caught fish symbolize death, and details such as the wheat stalks and grapes refer to the bread and wine at the Last Supper.

Introducing the Artist Abraham Mignon

Untitled Still Life Abraham Mignon
Untitled Still Life Abraham Mignon

Although German by birth, Mignon was Netherlandish by origin. He was placed under the tutelage of still life painter and art dealer Jacob Marrel as a child in 1649, and the pair later traveled to Utrecht to study and paint with artists of the Dutch Republic. In Utrecht, Mignon also assisted fellow still life painter Jan Davidszoon de Heem. Although Mignon also traveled to Antwerp, he spent the majority of his artistic career in Utrecht where he also served as a deacon.

Mignon was known to be a pious painter. In addition to the life cycle, his works included other religious themes such as the Resurrection of Jesus, the transience of life, and God’s creation.

Facts About Still Life Painting

Untitled Still Life by Abraham Mignon
Untitled Still Life by Abraham Mignon

Although is dates back to antiquity and the Middle Ages, still life developed more fully as a genre in Netherlandish paintings in the 16th and 17th centuries. A still life typically depicts inanimate, commonplace subject matter such as food, naturalia, flora, and sometimes simple man-made objects like glass, books, or jewelry. The simpler subject matter gave artists the opportunity the hone their technical skills and experiment with composition, detail, and optical illusions. The inclusion of plant and dead animal subject matter also contributed to botanical and zoological illustrations.

Where Is Abraham Mignon's artwork.

Mignon’s work can be found in major museums all over the world. His paintings hang in institutions such as the Rijksmuseum, the National Gallery, and the Louvre. They can also be found in private collections; the Nazi Gestapo looted one of Mignon’s paintings from a Jewish collector in 1938 and was later found by the Monuments Men in 1951. The German Lost Art Foundation has located seven more, and the Max Stern Art Restitution Projects is currently looking for another.

Although his pile of plenty may not be the traditional Thanksgiving meal we envision, Mignon’s still life is still a feast for the eyes. All of us at Street Art Museum Tours wish everyone a safe and happy holiday.

Untitled Still Life Abraham Mignon
Untitled Still Life Abraham Mignon

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Rebeccah Swerdlow

Rebeccah has loved arts and museums for as long as she can remember. From a young age, she has seen much of the world and its treasures and perspectives. She has always loved learning about other cultures, so she decided to pursue an undergraduate degree at Loyola University Maryland with a double major in History and Art History, with a focus on Ancient Greece and Rome. While finishing her degree, she completed a research fellowship and was published in the Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies. She has volunteered at her local historical society and the Baltimore Museum of Art and worked in her university gallery. She then received her Master’s degree at the University of Delaware in Art History where she also worked with curatorial teams for exhibits at the Winterthur Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as well as the university’s gallery. Rebeccah has frequented museums and galleries in the DC area for years. When she isn’t in a museum, you can find her working in the library of the Naval Historic and Heritage Command while earning her certification from the Society of American Archivists. Rebeccah values history, culture, and learning with the highest degree.
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