How to watch Dutch still life Part 2

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Still life in a fish shop

Fish still life — an allegory of water. This kind of works as a butcher shop was often part of the so-called cycle and, as a rule, created to adorn a Palace dining rooms. In the foreground of the painting, Frans Snyders

“Fish shop” depicts the multitude of fishes. There are perch and sturgeon, carp, catfish, salmon and other seafood. The part is split, part is waiting. These images of fish have no subtext — they sing the wealth of Flanders.

With the boy, we see the gift basket that he received on the Day of St. Nicholas. This point is tied to the wooden basket the red shoes. Apart from sweets, fruit and nuts in the basket are the rods — like a hint of education “carrot and stick”. The contents of the basket tell about the joys and sorrows of human life, which constantly replace each other. The woman explains to the child that obedient children get presents, while bad is punished. The boy recoiled in horror: he thought that instead of sweets will receive strokes of the cane. On the right, we see the window opening where you can see the town square. A group of kids standing under the Windows and joyfully welcomed the puppet jester on the balcony. Jester — an essential attribute of people’s festive celebrations.

In numerous variations of serving tables in the paintings of Dutch masters, we see bread and cakes, nuts and lemons, hams and sausages, lobster and crayfish dishes with oysters, fish or empty shells. To understand these still lifes can be depending on set items.

In a painting by Gerrit Willems Kheda we see the dish, jug, tall glass, the glass and the overturned vase, go Eichner, ham, crumpled napkin, and a lemon. It is a traditional and favorite set of Kheda. The location of objects and their choice is not accidental. Silverware symbolizes the wealth of the earth and their desperate, ham — pleasures of the flesh, attractive appearance and acidic inside the lemon represents a betrayal. Extinguished candle indicates the frailty and transience of human existence, the mess on the table — for the destruction. High glass-“flute” (in the XVII century, such glasses were used as measuring container labels) fragile as a human life, and at the same time symbolizes moderation and a person’s ability to control their impulses. Overall, the still life, as in many other “Breakfast”, with items play on the theme of the vanity of vanities and meaninglessness of earthly delights.

Most of the depicted items on the still life Peter are erotic symbols. Oysters, tube, wine refer to brief and dubious carnal pleasures. But this is only one variant reading of still life. Look at these images from a different angle. So, shells are symbols of the frailty of the flesh; the tube, which not only Smoking but also blew soap bubbles — a symbol of the suddenness of death.

The theme of the transience of human existence is contrasted with the immortality of the soul, and the signs of frailty are suddenly symbols of salvation. Bread and a glass of wine in the background associated with the body and blood of Jesus and point to the sacrament. Herring is another symbol of Christ — like about fasting and Lenten food. Open and shell oysters can change their negative value to the opposite, labeling the human soul, separated from the body and ready to enter into eternal life.

Different levels of interpretation of the items subtly tell the viewer that people are always free to choose between the spiritual and the eternal and transitory earth.


Vanitas, or “Scientist” still life

The genre of so-called “scientist” still life received the name of vanitas in Latin, it means “vanity of vanities” — in other words, “memento mori” (“remember death”). This is the most intelligent form of still-life, allegory of eternity, of art, of the transitoriness of earthly glory and human life.

The hunting horn symbolizes the riches that are impossible to bring into the next life. In “scientists” still lifes often find images of open books or papers lying carelessly with inscriptions. Not only do they offer to reflect about the depicted objects, but also allow you to use them for the purpose: to read the open pages, or to execute written in the music book music. Van Strek depicted in the sketch of the head of a boy and a book: it is a tragedy of Sophocles “Electra”, translated into Dutch. These images indicate that art is eternal. But the pages of the book are bent and dented. This signs of the onset of damage, implying that after death even the art is not useful. The inevitability of death and says the skull, but wrapped around his ear bread symbolizes the hope of the resurrection and eternal life. By the middle of XVII century the skull wrapped bread or ear of the evergreen ivy will become a compulsory subject for the image in the still lifes in the vanitas style.

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