Frans Hals Museum and De Hallen Haarlem
23 September 2017 to7 January2018
This unique exhibition featuring old and new art showcases the magnificent food still lifes of the Golden Age. It offers an alternative reading of these works as documents from an eventful history. What does the foodwe see tell us about the Netherlands’colonial and trade relations in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
As quinoa and the avocado have changed European cooking over the last few decades, so, from the fifteenth century onwards,‘new’ foodstuffs like coffee, sugar and tomatoes transformed our ancestors’ eating habits.
From the end of that century European imperialism changed the map of the world and created a global trading network.The start of an emotionally charged exchange between peoples and cultures, it sawt he import of new agricultural produce and foodstuffs from Africa, America, East and Southeast Asia and India.Before this,Europeans had no knowledge of tea, sugar, coffee, tomatoes, potatoes or maize.These new and,at the time, exotic types of food changedthe European diet forever.
As the prime movers of international trade,the Dutch saw their economy boom in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.The huge abundance of wealth gave rise to a self-assured bourgeoisie that delighted in displaying its affluence. People had their portraits painted and they also wanted landscapes and seductive still lifes on their walls. It is no surprise that many of the new products feature in the Golden Age still lifes.
The Still Life as a HistoricalDocument
A Global Table features seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish stilllifes by artists such as Floris van Dijck, Balthasar van der Ast, Clara Peeters, Jan de Heemand Willem Kalf.
The Old Master paintings are not the subject of traditional art-historical analysis but rather ‘read’ as historical documents. The exhibition invites viewers to ask three simple questions about the foods in the still lifes: What are they? Where did they come from and how much did it cost–in terms of money and human suffering –to get them here? In finding answers to these questions,the paintings can be seen as documents charting the growthof economic powerand colonial expansion of the Republic and the Dutch contribution to the creation of the world economy.
Balthasar van der Ast
Still Life with Shells and Tulips,1620
Oil on Panel
Mauritshuis, The Hague
Jan Davidsz de Heem
Still Life with Moor and Parrot, 1641
Oil on Panel
Hotel de Ville (Broodhuis), Brussel