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Magnolias on Light Blue Velvet Cloth

Still life of sensuously detailed painting of four white magnolias lying on blue velvet cloth.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Still life of sensuously detailed painting of four white magnolias lying on blue velvet cloth.
  • Still life of sensuously detailed painting of four white magnolias lying on blue velvet cloth




Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819–1904)

About this artwork

This sensuous and decorative image dates from the later part of Martin Johnson Heade’s long, varied, and peripatetic career. Traveling through much of the United States, to England and continental Europe, and (three different times) to Brazil, he produced work ranging from pristine views of East Coast salt marshes and lush tropical landscapes to pictures of exotic hummingbirds and orchids. At the age of sixty-four, Heade settled in Saint Augustine, Florida. There he began painting detailed arrangements of native flowers, including the Cherokee rose, orange blossom, and magnolia. Stretched out like an odalisque on blue velvet cloth, the curvaceous magnolia was meticulously rendered in pale, subtle hues and illuminated by a light so sharp that the image evokes the hyperintensity of a dream. The warm, steamy atmosphere is almost palpable, as is the blossom’s heady, pungent scent. The Art Institute’s Magnolias is one of a number of compositions by the artist featuring this dramatic yet delicate white flower.


On View, Gallery 173


Arts of the Americas


Martin Johnson Heade


Magnolias on Light Blue Velvet Cloth


Florida (Place depicted)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

c. 1885–1895


Oil on canvas


Signed, lower right: "M. J. Heade"


38.6 × 61.8 cm (15 1/4 × 24 3/8 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Gloria and Richard Manney; Harold L. Stuart Endowment

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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