food in the arts




Flemish painter (b. cca. 1580, Antwerpen, d. 1624, Antwerpen)

Painter of still-life and flower pieces. Beert became a master in Antwerp in 1602 and also carried on business as a cork merchant. He is specially noted for his paintings of oysters, which show a masterly feeling for colour and texture.
Still-Life with Cherries and Strawberries in China Bowls (Detail)
Still-Life with Cherries and Strawberries in China Bowls (Detail)
Oil on panel, 50 x 65,5 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

The composition of this dessert still-life represents an early phase of this genre. The picture shows two precious Chinese porcelain bowls from the Wan Li dynasty (1573-1619) – modern import products at the time – filled with strawberries and cherries, as well as a pewter plate full of olives, and several goblets. The surface of the table seems tilted in an old-fashioned way so as to allow an unobstructed view of the various luxury objects which have been depicted with hard precision and without atmospheric density.

We are looking at the last or penultimate course of an eight to nine-course banquet. The knife in the foreground, still largely the only piece of cutlery at the time, was shared by all the participant of the feast. The dragonfly and the butterfly add an emblematic dimension to this everyday motif. The artist shows the forces of good and evil fighting for man’s soul in the form of animals. The human soul is represented by strawberries and cherries, which were considered to be fruits of Paradise. The butterfly, as a symbol of salvation and resurrection, is in opposition to the dragonfly which was seen as a subspecies of the common fly. Flies were considered to be creatures of the devil.

Still-Life with Oysters and Pastries
Oil on copper, 46,6 x 66 cm
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart
The traditional principle of depicting isolated bowls, baskets and vases can also be found in the paintings of Osias Beert. He enjoyed placing a raised silver bowl with sugar confectionery or a loaf of marzipan in the centre. One example is his Stuttgart still-life, which also contains a tin plate full of oysters in the top left corner, as well as olives floating in oil and a ceramic vessel as big as a saucepan filled with chestnuts, and lemons at the front.
Beert- Still life with fruit 
The picture shows a still-life of plums, nuts and apples, raspberries and sweetmeats in three blue-and-white porcelain bowls, together with grapes on a pewter dish, a façon-de-venise goblet, wine-glasses and a piece of bread, all arranged on a wooden table. The present work is entirely typical of the ‘laden table’ still-lifes with their elevated viewpoint that Beert himself had pioneered during the first two decades of the 17th century. 306,000 listed artists
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