Not currently on display at the V&A

Still life

Oil Painting
1823 (painted)

Oil painting, 'Still Life', Benjamin Blake, 1823

Object details

Object type
TitleStill life (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Oil on panel
Brief description
Oil painting, 'Still Life', Benjamin Blake, 1823
  • Estimate height: 32.4cm
  • Estimate width: 26.1cm
Dimensions taken from Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990
Marks and inscriptions
'B Blake/1823' (Signed and dated by the artist on card in basket on table)
Credit line
Bequeathed by F. A. Blake
Object history
Bequeathed by F. A. Blake, 1897.

Historical Significance: This painting, in which is depicted a variety of dead game and a cabbage, reflects Blake’s contact with the Dutch still life genre, which he is known to have successfully copied as part of his career. Still life, although already present in Classical art, reached the peak of its popularity in the seventeenth-century, most specifically in the Netherlands. The term, derived from the Dutch ‘stilleven’, conventionally refers to the depiction of an arrangement of inanimate objects, including fruit, flowers, musical instruments and artefacts. Often infused with symbolic meaning, working as memento mori or vanitas, reminders of human mortality, later still life paintings also come to reflect the growing wealth and prosperity of cities such as Amsterdam and Haarlem. Frans Snyders’ (1579-1657) market and kitchen scenes, into which are built elaborate still life motifs, with an abundance of dead game and fish, exemplifies this new-found affluence and the development of still life featuring food in Flanders and the Netherlands. Already popular within the new bourgeois market of its day, Dutch master paintings were still greatly sought after in the nineteenth-century; a market to which Blake catered for in his copying of old Dutch paintings, which no doubt greatly influenced his depiction of still life in this painting in the V&A collection.

Blake’s depiction of domestic interiors, with a window from which light is seen to filter though and tables onto which are displayed a variety of dead game and vegetables, is a recurrent motif which he also makes use of in his Still life of game in an outhouse (sold at Christie’s, London, 8th June 1995) and Cottage Interior with game (sold at Bonhams & Brooks Knightsbridge, 1st Nov 2001). Although, unlike his Interior with figures and still life (P.6-1910), also in the V&A collection, the present painting does not depict figures, his rendition of a rustic interior reflects the renewed interest in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries of depictions of low-life, as a peaceful, if not idealized, vision of rural existence, harkening back to the tradition of Dutch genre painting of the seventeenth-century.


Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, (Librairie Gründ, 1948), Tome 1, p.685.

Blake, Richard, Correspondence

Grant, Colonel Maurice Harold, A Dictionary of British Landscape Painters, (F.Lewis Ltd, Leigh-on-Sea, 1st publ. 1952, repr. 1970), pp.23-4.

Graves, Algernon, A Dictionary of Artists, 1760 to 1880, (George Bell & Sons, 1884).

Subject depicted
Bibliographic reference
Parkinson, R., Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, London: HMSO, 1990, p. 5
Accession number

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest feedback

Record createdApril 23, 2007
Record URL
Download as: JSONIIIF Manifest