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Dutch Renaissance

Elaborate still-life paintings were the equivalent of a social media post in the 17th Century at the Dutch Renaissance!

I was always fascinated with the almost photographic paintings of the Dutch Golden Age. Countless were painted and sadly few survived. Still-life paintings of tables overflowing with food, wine, flowers and also depicting the occasional mouse, bird or insect were the fashionable subjects. Those paintings were not highly regarded at the time but exceedingly valuable now and the pride of many galleries and museums.

It was a period of Tulipmania, smart merchants, investors and wealthy bankers. Unprecedented class mobility took place in Dutch society. But it was also a time of not much worldly fun and religious suppression. The Reformed Calvinist Protestant church had a stronghold on morals. Still-life paintings developed into hidden messages disguised as pleasurable picture novels which in turn make us now into voyeurs. 

Depicted are tables laden with the finest treats fit for a secret romantic rendezvous or a gluttonous nightly party with wine overflowing and but there is always a timely moral reminder, just to keep with the religious de rigueur of the time. 

A reminder that it might be all over one day - the artists packed every thing into one painting.

Oysters & fruit have erotic overtones. Meat, lobster & shellfish mean wealth, gluttony or temptation, and there are lemons to remind us of the bitter-sweetness of life. Short-lived insects and the occasional a scull to remind us of mortality.

Poppies are the characteristic of laziness, a mortal sin, as they produce opium; a rose, the flower of Venus, symbol of love and sex. A glass, very rare and valuable, suggests a life of luxury. And plenty of wine of course, I leave its meaning to your imagination... 

Ulrike

🎨Jan Davidsz, Still life with Ham,Lobster and Fruit, c 1653

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