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Market Scene on a Quay (work of art)

Artwork Info

circa 1635-1640
Frans Snyders
79 5/16 x 135 1/4 inches (201.5 x 343.5 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina

Object Number
European Flemish
European to 1910

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.

Learn More

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.

Additional Resources

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  • A painting of a vendor and his market stall along a harbor. The bodies of different animals are piled on a large table, and fish are displayed in a barrel. Ships with the flags of Spanish Flanders and the Netherlands are depicted in the background.

    Market Scene on a Quay