The son of a wealthy merchant, Jan Fyt received his first artistic training from Hans van den Berch and later from Frans Snyders, who was to determine his choice of subject matter and early style. In 1633, two years after leaving Snyders' studio, Fyt went to Paris and then on to Italy, visiting Naples, Florence, Venice and Rome, where he joined the Schildersbent under the nickname of 'Goundvink' (Goldfinch). By 1641 he was back in Antwerp where he established a flourishing studio counting Pieter Boel and Jacob van der Kerckhoeven amongst his pupils. The degree of success that he enjoyed is attested to by the extensive nature of his output; no fewer than 287 extant still lifes are listed by Greindl, of which 166 are signed, with dated works from almost every year between 1638 and 1661 (E. Greindl, Les Peintres Flamands de Nature Morte au XVIIe Siècle, Brussels, 1983, pp. 348-354).
Fyt's earliest known works already reveal a strong Italian influence abandoning Snyders's use of local colour and his preference for more formally arranged compositions. The present work, which can be dated to the mid-1650s, is an excellent example of Fyt's mature style, revealing his masterly rendering of light and texture within a daring, theatrical composition. Comparable large-scale arrangements of this kind can be seen in the Still life of game, fruit and vegetables of 1652, with Scheidwimmer, Munich, 1980 (ibid., pp. 98-9, fig. 58) and the Still life with partridges and a hare, of 1649 (?) in The Metropolitan Museum, New York. The treatment of the hydrangeas recalls a Still life of flowers and asparagus, also dated to the mid-1650s, in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.