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Lodewik Susi, Flemish, active 1616–1620
Still Life with Mice, 1619
oil on panel
13 3/4 x 18 5/16 inches
Museum Purchase 50:1949

A lemon, an orange, apples, ginger sticks, and sugared almonds are shown in this still life. Even though the items appear randomly strewn on the table, the artist has actually placed them carefully. The arrangement creates a series of diagonal lines and color contrasts to form a balanced composition. (Notice how the red apple and reflective plate seem to balance the lemon and orange.) The knife and plate, which hang over the edge of the table, not only show the artist’s outstanding skills as a painter, but also bring us into the picture. The decay on the apple and the presence of mice could suggest another message to the viewer, since mice sometimes symbolize death or sin, and rotting food is often a metaphor for change and mortality. These elements serve to remind the viewer of life’s transformations and warn against overindulgences such as sweets.

For younger students:
Name all of the objects in the painting.
Make up a story from the point of view of one of the mice.

For older students:
Discuss how the artist used the elements of art-line, shape, color, texture-in this painting.
The food featured here would have been expensive at the time.What are some costly treats today?

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