Still life with an engraved silver beaker and spoon, a bread roll on a pewter plate, and bowls of berries, with an overturned wine glass
Oil on panel: 15.2(h) x 21.6(w) in /
38.7(h) x 54.9(w) cm
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FLORIS GERRITSZ. VAN SCHOOTEN
Active c. 1605 – 1656 Haarlem
Still life upon a table covered with a dark green cloth. To the left is a silver cup, decorated with engraved motifs. In the centre there are two pewter plates, one holding a bread roll, the other is filled with strawberries. To the right is a Wanli porcelain dish full of cherries and red and white currants. Some of the white currants also lie on the table cloth. In the back lies a delicate wine glass à la façon de Vénise; in the front, sticking out over the edge of the table, is a pewter spoon
Oil on panel: 15 ¼ x 21 5/8 in / 38.7 x 54.9 cm
Frame size: 22 x 28 ½ in / 55.9 x 72.4 cm
Painted circa 1640
With Fritz Nathan, St Gallen, by December 1945
Ing. Karl Rutter (d. 1970), Vienna, acquired in the 1960s or earlier;
by descent to his son, Ing. Hansjörg Rutter
Pro Arte 4 (1945), p.357, illus., as by Willem Claesz Heda (under ‘L’art et le commerce’)
The first known record of Floris Gerritsz. van Schooten is his registration as a member of the St George Militia of Haarlem in 1606. This means that he was at least 18 years old at the time and allows the conclusion that he was born in 1588 at the latest. Unfortunately, there is no documentation of the place or date of his birth. Van Schooten married in Haarlem in December of 1612. He lived and worked there until his death in November of 1656.[i] His earliest known dated still life is from 1617. He must have started painting much earlier, however, perhaps even a decade earlier, but probably joined the guild no earlier than around the time of his marriage in 1612.
Van Schooten primarily painted still lifes of various types, including kitchen displays and market stalls, with and without figures, but he did also produce a few paintings of Biblical subjects. It is almost impossible to establish a firm chronology of his oeuvre, as he dated only a very small number of his many works, and his style and handling were rather consistent.[ii] Floris van Schooten’s earliest works demonstrate a distinct connection with the work of his fellow townsmen Floris van Dijck (c.1575-1651) and Nicolaes Gillis (active c.1612 – in or after 1632). His earliest known dated still life, mentioned above, is particularly reminiscent of van Dijck’s impressive displays of victuals and costly objects. His later works initially show a clear interest in the still lifes of Pieter Claesz. (1597/8-1660), who had settled in Haarlem in the early 1620s. Claesz.’s innovative paintings partly elaborate on work by Antwerp still-life painters, such as Jacob van Hulsdonck and Clara Peeters. Claesz. was most probably trained in Antwerp and his still lifes obviously impressed the Haarlem artistic community significantly. At least in one case, in about 1630, Claesz. and van Schooten painted a still life together.[iii]
This still life by Floris van Schooten is a relatively late work, datable to c.1640. By this time, the artist had freed himself from the tendency to closely follow current trends, and had developed a personal style and character. His still lifes from his later years combine intimacy and sturdiness, a successful combination of his own early matter-of-fact rendering of textures and systematic array of objects with a hint of Claesz.’s more atmospheric compositions. Nevertheless, the prominent placement of the silver cup and the asymmetric composition may have been inspired by works by Pieter Claesz. from the mid- and later 1630s, such as his still life with a glass of beer and a herring from 1636, or a still life from 1637 in Dublin, in which a silver cup also features in the same position.[iv] Van Schooten, however, strikes a different and personal chord. Around the same time, he painted several still lifes in which this (or a very similar) silver cup features prominently, all on panels of a similar size. Some seem to hark back to earlier meal still lifes, such as in examples in which next to the silver cup, placed in the centre of the composition, we see a pile of cheeses.[v] Other examples come closer to the one discussed here, such as a painting that was with Noortman, Maastricht, in 1988, and another in a private Dutch collection.[vi] The exact same composition of the silver cup, dish with bread, and dish with strawberries was repeated by the artist in a still life in the Royal Museums for Fine Art, Brussels.[vii]
This still-life painting, like many of Floris van Schooten’s works, should not primarily be viewed from an iconographic point of view, but rather as one created for the pleasure of the viewer. It would have struck a contemporary as an amazing illusion of a conceived reality, but most of all, it would have encouraged thoughts of good food and drink. Bread was part of the Dutch daily diet, but white bread as shown here was a luxury. People mostly ate coarse, brown rye bread. The strawberries were certainly local products, but their quality and abundance no doubt suggested a sense of wealth. This is enhanced by the presence of the delicately crafted wine glass, the finely engraved cup, and the Wanli porcelain bowl imported from Asia.
Dr Fred G. Meijer, Senior Curator, Department of Old Netherlandish Painting, Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague.
[i] I. van Thiel- Stroman in N. Köhler (ed.), Painting in Haarlem 1500-1850. The collection of the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem/Ghent 2006, p. 301. Van Thiel incorrectly cites a publication by L.J. Bol in reference to a (non-existing) work from 1605.
[ii] In 1966, Poul Gammelbo published an oeuvre catalogue of van Schooten’s work, counting 122 paintings at the time (P. Gammelbo, ‘Floris Gerritsz. van Schooten’, Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art 17 (1966), pp. 105-142). Since then, many works unknown to Gammelbo have turned up, probably extending the known oeuvre to at least some 150 to 160 paintings. Dated works, which are scarce, range from 1617 to 1647.
[iii] See F.G. Meijer, ‘Twee is niet altijd meer dan één / Two is not always more than one’, RKD Bulletin 1997-2, pp. 16-20. Brunner (2004) incorrectly argued that the painting was (it no longer exists as such) entirely by Claesz. See also: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/12822.
[iv] See. M. Brunner-Bulst, Pieter Claesz. der Hauptmeister des Haarlemer Stillebens im 17. Jahnhundert, 2004, cat. nos. 71 (Rotterdam, see also https://rkd.nl/explore/images/569), and 74 (Dublin).
[v] Such as a painting in the Harold Samuel collection, gifted to the Corporation of London, and an example sold at Sotheby’s in 2003, https://rkd.nl/explore/images/202185.
[vi] The first signed with monogram, oil on panel, 40 x 56 cm, colour illus. in cat. Pictura fair, Maastricht, March 1988, p. 86, the second, oil on panel, 31.5 x 45 cm (possibly reduced somewhat) is illustrated by N.R.A. Vroom, A Modest Message, 1980, cat. no. 224, incorrectly as by J. Cuveenis, earlier published by the same author, incorrectly as by Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán. Both include the silver cup and the same dish of strawberries, the first shows a similar Wanli dish of currants, and the second includes a very similar bread roll and the same spoon.
[vii] Oil on panel, 37 x 65 cm, inv. no. 6649. Like the present painting, this work was erroneously attributed to Willem Claesz. Heda in the past (auction F. Muller & Co., Amsterdam, 26 April 1910, lot 53, illustrated). See also Gammelbo 1966, cat. no. 71.