In contrast to the elaborate still life arrangements common to his late seventeenth century contemporaries, Dutch painter Adriaen Coort is noted for his simple still life subjects.
His simply staged but striking Still life with Asparagus, depicting a bunch of plump white asparagus on the corner of a table (images above, top, with detail) is perhaps his best known work.
Two centuries later, Edouard Manet gives a thoroughly modern but respectful nod to the traditions of he Dutch still life masters, if not Coorte’s painting in particular, in his painting Bunch of Asparagus, showing a similar sized bunch of white asparagus, their bright stalks luminescent against a dark background and painted larger than life size.
The story is that Manet’s parton, Charles Ephrussi, was so pleased with the commissioned painting that he paid the artist 1000 Francs instead of the agreed on 800.
Manet, in response, painted another small canvas, this one quite different in tone and composition — showing a single spear on a marble tabletop, rich with color in its painterly brushstrokes — and sent it to his patron with the message “This one was missing from your bunch.”