Comfort Food: Quick Bite

Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re sinking our teeth into some comfort food with a dash of Dutch flavor. Pieter Claesz’s Still Life with a Pie, Sweetmeats, and Wine Glasses (c1625) beckons us to grab a plate and indulge. Lemons, olives, nuts, a crusty loaf of bread, and a meat pie—its citrusy filling tumbling out—are so exquisitely realistic, it looks as if you could reach in and gobble them up.

Still Life with a Pie, Sweetmeats, and Wine Glasses (1623-1625) by Pieter Claesz., AIC, Photo by cjverb (2019)-400px
Still Life with a Pie, Sweetmeats, and Wine Glasses (1623-1625) by Pieter Claesz, Art Institute of Chicago, Photo by cjverb (2019)

Still life paintings have been around since ancient times, but they did not develop into a full-fledged genre until the Renaissance. These fancy feasts are not just mouthwatering representations of a meal, they are filled with symbolic meaning. Dutch still lifes were often a reflection of the country’s newfound wealth by showing off imported goods (e.g., lemons, lace, glass, nuts, figs).

To counterbalance these ostentatious displays, vanitas still lifes (vanitas meaning vanity in Latin) were created to remind us of our mortality. Items representing the passage of time, such as a lit candle, timepiece, dying flowers, rotting fruit, and a skull or two, were a moral finger wagging at conceit, greed, and overindulgence.

A Vanitas Still Life (c1620), Flint Institue of Arts, Photo by cjverb (2018)
A Vanitas Still Life (c1620), Flint Institue of Arts, Photo by cjverb (2018)

Born near Antwerp, Pieter Claesz (c1596-1660) was best known for his casual and carefree still lifes. Claesz took pains to perfect the technique of capturing light on various objects in his paintings. Notice in the close ups below the lemons reflected on the silver platter and the light bouncing off the wine jug and glasses.

Perhaps Claez’s most clever use of light is featured in Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball (c1628). Reflected in the glass orb is an image of Claesz standing before a canvas and painting this scene. Brilliant! Claesz lived and worked primarily in Haarlem, Netherlands. If you’d like to view more of his stunning still lifes, click on this Pieter Claesz link, courtesy of WikiArt.

It’s time to wrap up our look at comfort food and grab a treat! I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. In the meantime, take care 🙂

Sacher Torte by biancamentil, Pixabay-100px Cover photo by biancamentil, courtesy of Pixabay.


Art Institute of Chicago: Pieter Claesz Still Life (c1625)

Britannica: Pieter Claesz

Britannica: Still Life Painting


Rijksmuseum: Pieter Claesz

TheArtStory: Dutch Golden Age

Web Gallery of Art: Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball

WikiArt: Pieter Claesz

Wikimedia Commons

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