Pieter Claesz
Dutch, c.1597-1661

Banquet Still Life with Ewer and Bread, 1641
Oil on panel
Gift of Mrs. Lloyd Williams, in memory of her father, Daniel Cottier
Period: 17th c
Classification: Painting
Dimensions: Unframed: 27 7/8 x 40 in. (70.8 x 101.6 cm) Framed: 29 5/8 x 40 3/4 x 1 7/8 in. (75.25 x 103.51 x 4.76 cm)
Signatures, Inscriptions and Markings v
Signed and dated (LL- on rim of plate): (monogram and date)
Provenance v
Collections: Lloyd WilliamsThis work has been examined by the Provenance Project, 05-06
Description v
Pieter Claesz was one of the foremost still-life painters in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century. He worked in Haarlem for his entire career. He is primarily known for his ‘breakfast’ or ‘banquet’ still-lifes, of which this is an excellent example. Often these works would include, in their well-com- posed materials, references to the concept of vanitas — items related to the fleeting pursuit of the material things of this world at the expense of the more lasting spiritual values. The Vassar painting presents a rich table deco- rated with, among other things, elegant, shiny pewter and silver plate, and glass roemers, as well as a luxurious figural salt cellar, an early pocket timepiece with its case, and a long-necked ewer on which closer inspection reveals the convex reflection of the artist seated, painting at his easel. The composition builds impressively in scale from right to left on a diagonal beginning with the void of the crisp white linen tablecloth in the lower right and ending with the long glass flute on the left. The further diagonal play of the parallel ovals of the platters and small bread loaves creates cohesion, as if those on the perimeter revolve around the central platter with its roasted fowl like the planets around the sun. Indeed, the roemers act almost like moons in a kind of orbit. In addition, the tendrils of the grape vine emerging from the bowl of fruit continues the sinuous arabesque visual play of the ewer’s handle and dragon neck. A ‘hidden’ symbolism might also be understood in the presence of the cruciform timepiece, a reference to the transitory nature of worldly things as well as a Christian reference to the cross. Also, the bread and grapes are prob- ably references to the Eucharistic body and blood of Christ’s sacrifice.
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