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The oil paint entitled “Floral Still Life with Shells” is now in the Saint Louis Art Museum, and was made in 1622 by Balthasar van der Ast. “Flowers that bloom for a very short time and exotic shells arouse the sensual pleasures of sight, smell, and touch. Fifteen separate blossoms represent twelve different species in this still life. Balthasar van der Ast is credited with inventing the type of flower painting that included shells, and this early example is so exact that specialists can identify specific varieties. These blossoms, however, do not flower at the same time, reminding us that this seemingly realistic depiction is actually a lovely contrivance only possible in the painter’s fantasy realm” [1].


Note only the flowers blossom in different seasons, the shells come from different areas. Only the yellowish shell is a land snail species. This shell was identified as Polymita picta by Adrián González Guillén in his recent monograph of this Cuban genus [2].


[1] LAM, inv. 172:1955. http://to.ly/HhIr.
[2] González Guillén, A. (2014). Polymita, the most beautiful land snail in the world: 1–359. Carlos M. Estavan & Associates, Miami.