Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This is a still life painting. Still life paintings depict natural (usually nonliving) or human-made objects. This type of painting was successful in the Netherlands in the 17th century.
- Common still life subjects include flower bouquets, banquet tables, or market stalls. This painting’s table incorporates objects made of different materials. In this still life painting, the artist demonstrates his ability to paint detail and texture.
- Still lifes can also communicate messages about religion, politics, or society. This painting depicts a messy banquet with expensive products. In the 17th century, the colonization and trade efforts of the Dutch were profitable. The wasteful display on the table demonstrates the country’s financial success.
Dominated by an owl-topped gold goblet (the artist’s name means owl in Dutch), this seventeenth-century still life is a descendant of innovative pictures like Aertsen’s Meat Stall, also in this gallery. The painting is a type known as a banquet piece. In it the various surfaces and textures of the luxury pewter, gold, silver, and glass tableware, as well as the food and white linen tablecloth, are all meticulously rendered.
Within a single painting, several meanings and concerns compete with each other: the artist’s skill, the prosperity of the Dutch economy, the flourishing art market, and anxieties about overindulgence and ostentatious display.
Resources for Teachers:
- Read an article about the history of still life painting in Northern Europe.
- Read an article that explores the term “Dutch Golden Age.”
- Watch a video that explains the time period during which this painting was made.
Resources for Students: