Still life with medallion by Herman van der Mijn

Painted by Dutch artist Herman van der Mijn, this delightful but unassuming still life was acquired through the Annual Collectors Club dinner in 2019. Born in Amsterdam in 1684, van der Mijn studied under noted German flower painter Ernst Stuven before moving to Antwerp where he was recorded as a master of the Guild of St Luke in 1712. In 1713 he was invited to join the court of the Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz in Dusseldorf and it was here that he associated with many well-respected Dutch artists including Adriean van der Werff and Rachel Ruysch. Following the death of the Emperor Palatine, van der Mijn returned to Antwerp before travelling to London, via Brussels and Paris, where he remained for the next twenty years.

Still life with medallion demonstrates the ongoing importance of the still life genre, a tradition which came to the fore in the previous century during what is now known as the Golden Age of Dutch painting. Dutch still lifes are replete with important symbolism beyond merely representing beautiful objects and are often associated with the profound concepts of life, death and rebirth. An exotic concoction of red and white grapes, peaches, apricots, a gourd and chestnut, each of these objects has its own symbolic meaning, but more generally this work can be interpreted as a vanitas, a sombre reminder of both the beauty and fragility of everyday life.

One of the most interesting and unusual items included in this diminutive painting is the medallion with what appears to be a self-portrait. The inclusion of this small portrait elevates the meaning of this work suggesting a special purpose or connection for the artist – this is not merely a work intended for sale (or even a commission) it was perhaps completed as a gift for a close friend or relative. Alternatively van der Mijn may have painted this miniature self-portrait to showcase his capacity and skills in order to obtain acceptance into the Guild of St Luke.

This enchanting new acquisition adds significant depth to AGSA’s important collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch painting and is sure to be much admired by visitors to the Gallery.

Thank you to the generous support of Susan Cocks and Dr J.B Robinson, Colin and Robyn Cowan, Emeritus Professor Anne Edwards AO, Gwinnett Family, Peter and Pamela McKee, Tom Pearce, John Phillips and David Urry through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation Collectors Club 2019

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Curator of Australian Art, Tracey Lock presents the recent Foundation acquisition Antarctica by Sidney Nolan.

Thank you to the generous support of the Gwinnett Family, Helen Bowden, Ross Adler AC, The Hon. Justice Mark Livesey, Peggy Barker, Elspeth Doman OAM, Tom Pearce, Lady Potter AC, Dick Whitington QC and David and Jennifer Hallett.