conservative principle of tables arranged strictly parallel to the
horizontal edges of the painting was followed by Nicolaes Gillis and
Floris Claesz van Dijck. (Predecessors were probably family paintings
such as Marten van Heemskerck's.) Their still-lifes are classified as 'ontbijtjes'
(breakfast still-lifes). Onbijt(je) was a light meal which could be
taken at any time of the day. Strictly speaking, most of the paintings
by Gillis and van Dijck are dessert still-lifes, developed at roughly
the time by Osias Beert and Clara Peeters.
All these artists show a
table with a table runner and a carefully ironed, white damask
tablecloth whose creases, regardless of the laws of perspective, run in
parallel lines towards the back of the painting. A relatively high
viewpoint was also chosen, apparently to afford a good overall survey of
the objects, which are arranged side by side, or in a circle, hardly
ever touching or overlapping. The precious drinking vessels and pieces
of textile show very clearly that the arrangement is that of a
In accordance with
etiquette, fruit, pies, nuts and confectionery were served as a dessert.
Cheese, which had a central role in Gillis's and van Dijck's art, was
also part of the dessert. Gillis and van Dijck build up pyramids of hard
cheese in two or three layers: at the bottom there is half a large
cheese with a rich, yellow hue, indicating that it is still very young,
while on the top the cheeses are smaller and more brownish, almost grey
in colour, showing that they are older and more mature. The irregular
traces of cuts with a knife - the only piece of cutlery on the table -
are rendered extremely well.