Two other still-lifes by Simson are in an the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. These are undated and the date inscribed on the present painting has provided for the first time an indication of when the artist was working. The Fitzwilliam drawings are both signed, one 'J.A.Simson' and the other 'John: Aug: Simson'. Both are painted on vellum and laid down on veneer.
Simson is a rare English exponent of the flemish botanical style. His flowers play out a drama of textures and forms arranged monumentally against a dark background. The spectacularly spotted Iris contrasts with the red velvet of the marigolds, and the whole vase is lit with an even light that picks out the dew drops. The beetle which clambers onto a petal below the vase connects the artificially arranged flowers to the natural world.
Simson was a contemporary of Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770) who worked in England from 1736 until his death. Ehret painted scientifically and with reference to Linnaean taxonomy, while Simson takes a more aesthetic approach. These two artists represent the diversity of flower painting in England in the mid-eighteenth century and the present painting is a rare and exquisite example.
We are grateful to David Scrase and to Jennifer Vine for their help in preparing this catalogue entry.