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. Still lifes can show off an artist’s skill in painting detail. Still lifes can also communicate messages about religion, politics, or society.
- This painting depicts a market stall on a quay, or harbor. In the 17th century, the colonization and trade efforts of the Dutch were very profitable. Franz Snyders painted in Antwerp, a major port city in Europe at the time. In this painting, the market stall’s overabundance and the port depicted in the background signify the city’s success.
- This work was painted during the Eighty Years’ War. It was a period of conflict between Spain and the Netherlands that lasted from 1568 to 1648. The Spanish king wanted to convert the region to Catholicism. This was rejected by many people in the country, since a large portion of the population was Protestant. When the war ended, the Netherlands gained its independence from Spain.
- Snyders included the flags of both Spanish Flanders and the Netherlands on the masts of two ships in this painting. This imagery represents the ongoing conflict in the region.
Frans Snyders, often with the help of workshop assistants, painted large, bountiful market scenes like this, likely intended either for the nobility or for those aspiring to noble status. Interestingly, an actual market is not portrayed; we know that meat and fish were sold in separate markets. Instead, Snyders creatively recycled motifs from earlier pictures.
Completed in the midst of the Dutch conflict with Spanish Flanders, where Snyders worked, the painting contains two ships with Dutch and Spanish flags in the background. Perhaps this is a subtle yet pointed wish for peace from either Snyders or this work’s patron.
Resources for Teachers:
- Read an article about the history of still life painting in Northern Europe.
- Read an article about Frans Snyders.
- Read an article about the conflict between the Netherlands and Spanish Flanders.
Resources for Students: