Mario Nuzzi was the first Italian still-life artist to reach international fame, and the diffusion of his models through engravings influenced the work of the greatest European floral painters. His flowers are executed in a Caravaggesque manner of acute realism based on natural prototypes: it is well known that he had a botanical garden in Rome, looked after by his father. It is therefore no surprise that his flowers always have a certain animation and vitality previously unknown in this genre. Nuzzi successfully experimented with new solutions that could meet the needs of the monumentalising, Baroque decoration of the princely palaces of the time. He collaborated with Carlo Maratti in the two big mirrors painted with flowers and putti still in the Palazzo Colonna, in Rome, executed after 1654. He organised a team of five different figure painters to execute a programme illustrating the Four Seasons, which included his own portrait in the act of painting (Ariccia, Palazzo Chigi; in collaboration with Maratti, Filippo Lauri, Giacinto Brandi, Bernardino Mei and Giovanni Maria Morandi).
This pair of paintings belongs to a series of at least four: two other flower still lifes of the same size and with the same frames having being sold at Sotheby's, New York, 24 January 2008, lot 111. It is hoped that further research might uncover an inventory indicating the original owner of these impressive canvases. Given the status of Mario's clients and the grandeur of the series, one is naturally inclined to postulate a princely commission, perhaps again for the Chigi. As with the Four Seasons series, a project of this scale might have called for a team of painters that might have included Paolo Porpora, who also worked for the Chigi, and who was not unfamiliar with large scale paintings (see, for example, the painting formerly in the Chigi collection, 200 x 124 cm., known through a photograph in the Briganti archive published in G. and U. Bocchi, Pittori di natura morta a Roma: Artisti italiani 1630-1750, Viadana, 2005, p. 346, fig. PP.7).