Floris Gerritz. van Schooten

A still life of a plate of strawberries, a knife, bread rolls, cheese and a bowl of gooseberries on a table covered with a white linen cloth

Oil on panel: 17(h) x 24.6(w) in /

43.2(h) x 62.5(w) cm

Signed lower centre with monogram, on the blade of the knife: FVS

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BT 278

 

FLORIS GERRITZ. VAN SCHOOTEN

Active c.1605 – 1656 Haarlem

 

A still life of a plate of strawberries, a knife, bread rolls, cheese and a bowl of gooseberries on a table covered with a white linen cloth

 

Signed lower centre with monogram, on the blade of the knife: FVS

Oil on panel: 17 x 24 ⅝ in / 43.2 x 62.5 cm

Frame size: 25 ½ x 33 in / 64.8 x 83.8 cm

 

Painted circa 1630

 

Provenance:

Dr Zimmermann (inscription on the reverse of the frame)

Private collection, South Germany[1]

 

Exhibited:

Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle, 1969 (label on the reverse of the frame)

 

 

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, the place and date of his birth are not documented, insofar as we know. Van Schooten married in Haarlem in December 1612. He lived and worked there until his death in November 1656.[2] His earliest known dated still life is from 1617. He must have started to paint much earlier, however, perhaps even a decade, but he 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.[3] 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 show his 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, Pieter Claesz. and van Schooten painted a still life together.[4]

 

The still life by Floris van Schooten discussed here probably dates from about 1630. By this time, the artist had developed a personal style and character. His still lifes from the later 1620s onwards combine intimacy and sturdiness, based upon his own early matter-of-fact rendering of textures and systematic array of objects with added inspiration from contemporary Haarlem artists such as Floris van Dijck and Pieter Claesz. This painting clearly harks back to earlier meal still lifes by van Dijck, which usually prominently featured a pile of cheeses (fig. 1).[5] While van Schooten‘s style and handling of the paint were quite consistent, the elevation of the table top is something of an indication the date of origin. Early on, van Schooten (and others, like van Dijck) showed much of the surface of the table, as if viewed slightly from above (fig. 2). By the 1640s, the view point had lowered considerably and only little of the surface of the table is visible (fig. 3). The still life discussed here can be situated in between these early and late works. In view of the handling of the details, it will be more or less contemporary with an example in the museum in Antwerp, which included several similar motifs, such as the cheeses, bread, and rummer (fig. 4).

 

This still-life painting, like many of Floris van Schooten’s works, should not primarily be viewed expecting the evocation of deep religious or philosophical thoughts, but rather as one created for the pleasure of the viewer. It would have struck a contemporary as a wonderful 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, certainly in this variety of shapes, was a luxury. People mostly ate coarse, brown rye bread. The strawberries and gooseberries were certainly local products, but their quality and abundance, no doubt, suggested a sense of wealth. This is enhanced by the presence of the Wanli porcelain dish imported from Asia, holding the butter (fig. 5). Van Schooten must have owned one or more examples of this particular type of plate, since it appears in many of his still lifes (figs. 2, 4, 6). Cheese and butter were relatively inexpensive daily foods, but again the quantity evokes an impression of abundance. The province of Noord-Holland, of which Haarlem is one of the larger cities, produced much cheese. Cheese was often eaten as a dessert course ‘to close the stomach’. The large yellow cheese is probably from Gouda, while the darker one on top may be from Edam, the colouring may be due to an addition of parsley or horseradish juice. The bowl holding the gooseberries is probably a Haarlem imitation of Chinese porcelain, or an object conjured up by the artist’s imagination.[6] Van Schooten included a dish of strawberries in several of his still lifes, for instance in a somewhat earlier example from c. 1623/25 (fig. 6). To some degree, this inclusion may have been inspired by some early work by Pieter Claesz., who also depicted cheeses in combination with strawberries and other fruit (fig. 7). This coincides with the custom of eating fruit as a dessert course, although some manuals propagated fruit as a first course.[7] The paintings in figs. 6 and 7 suggest that strawberries were also eaten on buttered bread.

 

                                                                             Fred G Meijer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 F. van Dijck, signed and dated 1613, panel, 66 x 95 cm. Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum.

 

2 F. van Schooten, signed with monogram, panel, 63 x 83 cm, c.1620. Paris, Musée du Louvre.

 

3 F. van Schooten, panel, 38,7 x 54,9 cm, c.1640. With Richard Green, London, 2017.

 

4 F. van Schooten, panel, 50 x 82 cm. Antwerp, Royal Museum for Fine Art.

 

5 Wanli porcelain plates, c.1610, diameter 20,5 cm. Private collection.

 

6 F. van Schooten, panel, 53 x 83 cm, c. 1623/25. Private collection.

 

7 P. Claesz., signed with monogram, panel, 50 x 74.2 cm, c. 1623/24. Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum, on long-term loan from a private collection.

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES

[1] On the reverse is a label in what appears to be (late) 18th-century, probably German handwriting, poorly legible, referring to the name ‘Friso’, which seems to be explained as from Friesland, and as a variation of ‘Vrijso’ or ‘Vries’. The connection with the painting remains unclear, unless it was once thought to be by an artist named Friso.

 

[2] 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.

 

[3] In 1966, Poul Gammelbo published a catalogue of van Schooten’s oeuvre, consisting of 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, particularly after 1620, range from 1617 to 1647.

 

[4] 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.

 

[5] 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.

 

[6] I have not encountered any bowls of this model and with this decoration from the period, but somewhat similar examples appear in several still lifes by van Schooten from probably the 1630s, see RKDimages no. 201978 (https://rkd.nl/explore/images/201978) and Gammelbo (see note 3) fig. 35, among others. These suggest that the artist owned such a bowl as well.

 

[7] See also the chapter ‘Tantalising tables: The Foods and Objects in Meal Still Lifes of the Early Seventeenth Century’, exhibition cat. Slow Food. Dutch and Flemish Meal Still Lifes 1600-1640, Mauritshuis, The Hague, 2017.

Old MasterFloris Gerritz. van Schooten