Before we talk about the flowers, we will first begin with the inspiration behind this art piece and how he painted it. John's sister-in-law Emily lived in a region called Devonshire. Emily was married to a painter named Peregrine Feeney. Feeney built their matrimonial home in this region. John and his wife Esther frequently visited the region. Emily and Feeney both owned a rose garden in their home. The woman in the painting is believed to be John's wife. Critics reached this conclusion after noting similarities between the woman in the painting and the women in his previous paintings. Esther may have posed while her husband painted her. The painting thus explains why John made this painting.
Flowers were significant during this era and this may explain why he included them in the painting. They were mainly used to express messages in a secretive way. Some topics were deemed too inappropriate to talk about openly such as asking someone whether they were in a relationship. Flirting was not allowed, so the only way to express your love or interest in someone was to give them a flower. Upper-class women were not allowed to even speak to men. If a woman wished to combat this rule, she would secretly hand them a flower or vice versa. Different flowers communicated different meanings. A man who loved a woman would send her tulips. If the woman loved the man too, she would send him tulips. On the other hand, if she did not like the man, she would send him yellow carnations.
John's wife may have gathered flowers to use or to give a single person to express their love to a member of the opposite sex. The painting was done using oil on canvas. In a nutshell, the painter first sketched the drawing with charcoal. After sketching, he painted over it with thinned paint. On the surface, the painting merely shows a woman gathering flowers. However, when you note the period it was painted, you will understand why she is engaged in the activity. There have been several male artists who have devoted much of their careers to portrait paintings of women and another of those was Edgar Degas, who gave us the likes of Ballet Class, Dance Class and Blue Dancers.